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Presented 

With the Compliments of 











GEORGE WASHINGTON 

CARVER 

AN AMERICAN BIOGRAPHY 

BY RACKHAM HOLT 



1950 

Doubleday and Company, Inc. 
GARDEN CITY, NEW YORK 



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA 


I) 









CL 

COPYRIGHT, 1943 

by doubleday tc COMPANY, INC. 

all rights reserved 



To my daughter 
Margaret V. Holt 
who will help to make the 
new world a better one. 



Acknoivled^ents 


IVIany friends of Dr. Carver in his childhood, 
youth, and manhood, whom I have never seen, have been 
generous of their time and effort in supplying recollections 
and data for this biography, and have been especially help- 
ful in enabling me to augment his own scattered memories 
of his early days. Those to whom I am indebted for aid in 
gathering material compose such a large number that they 
cannot be listed, but I am deeply grateful to them all. 

I should like also to acknowledge the assistance of Sara 

Coffin in preparing the manuscript. 

Finally, I ^^■ish to thank the publishers of the Christian 
Science Monitor and the Saturday Evening Post for their 
kind permission to reprint certain passages which have pre- 
viously appeared in their pages. 



Contents 


uHAPTER 

I “Oh, Mary, Don’t You Weep!” 

II “I Was Young When I Begun” .... 

III “The Young Lambs Must Find the Way . 

IV “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child . 

V “A Long Ways from Home” 

VI “The Trumpet Sounds within My Soul 
VII “That Promised Land ^Vhere All Is Peace” . 
VIII “And the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down ’ . 

IX “On My Way to the Kingdom Land” . . 

X “Let My People Go” 

XI “My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too 
XH “We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” . . . 

XIII “Way Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields” . 

XIV “Go Tell It on the Mountain” 

XV “Then Why Not Every Man?” .... 

XVI “The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell Off” 

XVII “I Heard from Heaven Today” .... 
XVIII “Domti Came the Heavenly Manna” . 

XIX “Go Tell Doubting Thomas” 

XX “Let Us Break Bread Together” .... 
XXI “The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith” .... 
XXII “To See How the End Will Be” .... 

XXIII “There Is a Balm in Gilead” 

Epilogue: “Coming for to Carry Me Home” . 

Bibliography 

Index 



Illustrations 


Dr. George Washington Carver Frontispiece 

Facing Page 


Moses Carv'er and Bill of Sale for Mary 

Dr. Milholland 

Mariah Watkins 

Lucy Se)Tnour 

George and His Older Brother, James . . . . . 

George Carver as a Young Boy 

Captain George W. Carver, at Iowa State College . . 

George Carver with the Chicago World s Fair Painting . 
Dr. G. W. Caiv^er Painting at Tuskegee Institute . . 

George Car\ er in Art Class at Simpson College . . . 

Booker T. Washington, 

George W. Carver, 1896 

Dr. Carver in His Laboratory 

Mycological Drawing by Dr. Carver 

Professor Carver’s Design for Demonstration Wagon . 

Dr. Carv'er Investigating Plant Diseases 

Dr. Carver with Dr. John M. Chenault and Infantile 

Paralysis Patient 

Dr. Carver in His Study 

Dr. Carver with His Assistant, Austin W . Curtis, Jr. . . 

President Franklin D. Roosevelt Greeting Dr. Carver . 
The George Washington Carver Museum . . . • 

Dr, Carver Delivering Baccalaureate Address at Simpson 
College, 


26 

27 
27 
27 
86 
86 
86 
8/ 
8, 
8: 
I4i 

i8( 

18' 

18' 

21. 

21 

30 

30 

30 

33 

33 



George Washington Carver 




CHAPTER I 


Mary, Don’t Ton Weep!’' 


Decorate the city with Stars and Stripes. Let 
every man know that on this eleventh day of January, year of 
our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and sixty-five,^ by the 
irrevocable action of the Convention slavery is abolished in 
the State of Missouri, now and forever.” None hereafter shall 
“know any master but God.” 

Illuminate the city with bonfires. Warmth has been sent 
into the stone-and-iron crypt of Lynch’s slave pen where 
human feet were chained ; light has been sent do\vn dark and 
narrow streets to the ominous river they will not have to 
travel any more. 

The inalienable gift of song swells. A new spiritual is born 
which holds all joy, all sorrow, all yearning, all endeavor 
the humility of man before his God, the majesty of man who 
owTis a living soul. And the beginning and the end is but one 
word. Free! 

St. Louis rejoiced, but who beyond the levee could know 
or was prepared to obey that edict? 

“Hush.” Mary swayed in lullaby rhythm. “Hush,” she 
whispered to the wail that rose from her arms. The January 
night was cold and the fire before which she warmed her sick 
baby was small. It flickered over James, half buried in his 
trundle bed, a callously healthy child who slept where he was 
laid. Their father used to come over from the Grant place 
times like this to be with her. But he was dead now. He 
had been hauling wood up to his master’s house. “There’s 
been an accident.” thev had told her. “. . . a heavy log.’ 



2 


George Washington Carver 


Hush, little George. Doesn’t your mother have sorrow 
enough? 

Little George coughed and choked and strangled, and 
Mary poured honey she had doctored with tansy into his 
mouth. Other children had whooping cough and were none 
the worse for it, but he was so tiny and puny. He had been 
bom in January of i860 and had spent the first year of his 
life during the brutal days of border war between Missouri 
and neighboring Kansas, when farms lay desolate, men hid 
their families and their animals in the deep woods, and no- 
body had enough to eat. 

A scream stopped in her throat as the door burst open and 
a chill blast crashed it back against the outer walls of the 


cabin. 

“Run, Mary!” cried Moses Carver as he scooped up the 
sleeping James, and was gone again into the woods. 

Mary knew what she must do, but icy, naked terror held 
her in a monstrous grasp, freezing her muscles fast. Heavy 
panting \vas around the cabin now, and men were in the 
doorway. Hands dragged her onto a horse. The baby’s choked 
crying was lost in the pound of galloping hoofs. They were 
all gone, leaving the bitter wind to whirl through the room 

and beat against the futile little fire. 

This was the year 1861, and jungle law prevailed in Mis- 
souri— a bloody melee of plundering and pillaging, burmng 
and murdering. At one time or another during this savage 
period, the hot breath of fire blew over every settlement m 
Newton County. The Missouri Compromise, so hopefully 
passed bv Congress in 1820 to settle the question of slavey, 
had not settled it at all, and the proslavery adherents and the 
Free Staters continued their bitter struggle. 

From Kansas, wellspring of hatred, scourged by drought 
and famine, outlaw bands of jayhawkers and redlegs raged 
back and forth like rabid animals. In reprisal, Missouri bus - 
whackers and guerrillas rode under the banner of the black 
flag The belts of Cherokee and Choctaw Indians were himg 
with dripping scalps. All set torches to hay and homes alike, 



Mary, Don’t You Weep!” 


destroying buildings and raUroads, sei^g stores of shoes, 

coats, blankets, and Negroes. AU used the knife, the co , 

the bowl” as freely as the gun, shooting or hanging unarme 


men before or after surrender. 

There was lead in that corner of the state— lead for mak- 
ing bullets. Some had come in search of it, but now the 
countryside was filled with hungry men who killed their own 
officers for horses and arms. They were sick with smallpox 


and desperate for specie or greenbacks. 

Hatred was especially violent against the Black Republi- 
can abolitionist Germans— the “lop-eared Dutch”— who 
had immigrated into the state in 1830. The same or other 
raiders that had stolen Mary and little George returned to 
Diamond Grove, and this time they caught Moses Carver, 
who had been among the immigrants and had prospered. 

“Where’s your money?” they demanded. But he refused to 


answer. 

They strung him up by his thumbs to a branch of the 
walnut tree that stood against the house where he and his 
wife had lived in busy peace until the war. His muscles 
screamed in pain, but he would not answer. They took live 
coals from the fire and put them to his feet. Sweat ran down 
into his beard, but he still would not answer. 

Finally they left him. 

Susan wept as she put plantain leaves on her husband s 
bums, not from fear, because she, too, was a pioneer. She 
wept for Mary. Moses Carver did not approve of slavery, but 
hewing a home out of the wilderness required labor. There 
was only himself and Susan, and both had reached middle 
age. Susan, in particular, needed an extra pair of hands 
around the house and he knew their owner would be better 
off with Sue and himself than with many another. Twenty- 
five years after he had moved from Illinois to the prairie 
and timberland of southwestern Missouri he had become one 
of “those who caused money to be passed over a person’s 
body,” as they said in Africa. He had paid his neighbor, 
Colonel Grant, seven hundred dollars for a girl about thirteen 



4 George Washington Carver 

years old, called Mary. She had had a home with the Carver, 
for six years, and her loss was the loss of a member of the 
family. 

The raiders had not broken the spirit of Moses Carver; he 
was still fierce. A rumor reached him that a bushwhacker 
named Bentley knew Mary’s whereabouts and would steal 
her back, though it would be expensive. He sent for the man. 
“Go after them, Bentley. I haven’t as much money as they 
think, and I wouldn’t give any of it to them. It’s hidden 
under a beehive. But bring Mary and the baby back and I'll 
give you forty acres of my best timberland and Pacer — ^he’s 
a good horse. Sue’U show you where he’s hid.” 

With eight hundred dollars’ worth of timberland and three 
hundred dollars’ worth of race horse to spur him on, Bentley 
started in pursuit, riding fifty miles across Newton County 
and across McDonald County and over into Arkansas. 

When, after a few days, Bentley came back, he had a 
bundle \vTapped in his coat and tied to the back of his saddle. 

“No sign o’ Mary. Lot o’ people think the Secesh ain’t 
licked yet, nor slavery neither. First I heard she was dead, 
then somebody said they saw her goin’ north with some 
soldiers, and somebody else said she was sent down river to 
Louisiana. Guess they didn’t want to be bothered with the 
baby. Coupla wimin had it. I wouldn’t want to take the 
timberland since I couldn’t get your girl. I’ll just take the 
horse for my trouble.” 

He untied the bundle and handed it over to Susan, saying 
doubtfully, “Guess it’s alive yet.” 


CHAPTER II 


“I Was Young When I Begun” 


T,. FIRST BRIGHT DAY of spring a few years later 
a Uttle boy was in the woods genUy scraping at the earth. He 
came to a piece of bark and when he had raised it he peered 
into the hollowed space beneath. One by one, handlmg each 
with anxious care, he lifted from the snug hole the c^ and 
gourds from which sprouted young shoots. He lined them up 
on the ground and then sat back on his thin haunches and 
raptly watched the twinkle of yellow sun on the brave green 
leaves and fronds of his ferns and his pai^cular treasure, a 
begonia. The temperature in the foothills of the Ozarks 
sometimes fell to fifteen below zero and the ground was 
frozen for a foot. George had protected his plants from ^s 
winter cold, bringing them out for sun and then covering 
them over again. Now it was spring, and they were ready to 
live once more. 

The neighbors knew the child had a magic way with grow- 
ing things. They called him the Plant Doctor, and he made 
house-to-house calls in Diamond Grove to prescribe for ailing 
plants; sometimes cuttings wouldn’t root, some were wilting, 
some drying, and he would recommend more or less water, 
more or less sun. If they were seriously ill he carried them 
away to his secret garden. It was far enough off and hidden 
by bushes and nobody knew about it but himself. There he 
would prune or knock out the soil and shift until he had 
nursed them back to health and bloom. He never lost a plant 
in his sanatorium. 

George did not know how it happened that he had a green 
thumb. There were a good many things he did not know. 



6 George Washington Carver 

The first thing he inquired about was rain. What was rain? 
What made it? Then what were hail and snow? Why, for 
instance, was a flower? Out of one box of rose moss came 
diflPerent colored flowers — ^yellow, white, rose, pink, striped, 
spotted — all from the same piece of earth. “Why?” he whis- 
pered to himself. “I wish I knew.” 

It was in the nature of this boy to cherish his plants in 
solitude and, besides. Aunt Sue Carver would not allow him 
to bring his trash into the house. Sometimes he smuggled in 
a fistful of flowers or grass or even a few heads of oats, going 
to bed with them gripped in his hands and waking in the 
morning still clutching the withered remains. Usually she 
would exclaim as he appeared in the doorway, “George, 
what have you got there?” and out would come toads or 
frogs, grasshoppers that leaped among the hot wheat stalks, 
or dragonflies that zoomed above the little stream rippling 
down below the cabin. Or it might be some pretty feathers 
or interesting-looking rocks — very much the same sort of 
litter he was to pick up on his rambles and bring into his 
laboratory all the days of his life. 

As he walked back from his garden through the tall trees 
of walnut, oak, and hickory — people preserved their timber 
then — taking short steps because he was undersized, or as he 
hopped across the rutted fields sniffing the wet smell of damp 
earth freshly turned up to the sun, he piped in a high, child- 
ish falsetto. He had an impediment in his speech, the result 
of the whooping cough in infancy and violent attacks of 
“croup,” which he had over and over again. He stammered, 
and half the time no one could understand what he was try- 
ing to say, but he was forever singing. He sang, too, about his 

duties, which were never-ending. 

The Carv’ers had two houses a few feet apart, one room 
each, the roofs of hand-split boards, and the cracks between 
the logs chinked with mud. But the “big” house was just for 
company, and when it was occupied George trotted across to 
it carrying the meals. In the little house lived George and his 
brother Tim, Aunt Sue, and Uncle Mose Carver. Most of the 



“I Was Young When I Begun” 7 

country people called each other after this fashion; the older 
folk were “Uncle” or “Aunt,” and the younger ones were 
“Cousin” this or that, though lacking any blood relation- 

ship. . , 1 j 

No plants bloomed in the Carver home; it had no decom- 

tion of any sort. The furnishings were merely two wide 
wooden beds, a small spinning wheel \vith a treadle for fine 
linen and a big one for heavy wool, some stools, and a cross- 
legged table on which were ranged the pewter, blue- and 
pink-flowered dishes, and stubby, bone-handled knives and 
two-pronged forks — ^very elegant for their time. When the 
rains came or the autumn chill, the door and the window 
shutter, usually swinging wide on wooden hinges, had to be 
closed, and the family ate and worked by the light of tallow 
dips. At all seasons they went to bed wdth the chickens and 
rose at four in the morning. 

Work was the order of each day. George liked some of it. 
He would walk down the rows in the cornfield very fast with 
Martha Jane Williams, Uncle Mose’s niece, carrying a little 
bucket of corn, dropping kernels in perfect rhythm — two 
steps, three grains, two steps, three grains. 

He could not keep up with Jim, who was not merely two 
years older but big and strong and very active — a handsome 
fellow. Being so much more healthy, Jim did the hea\iei 
work and was not around the house \’ery much as George 
was. The frail and rather pathetic little boy was sick a good 
deal. Nevertheless, he had to do his work whether he felt well 
or not ; there could be no lagging on a farm. The garden had 
to be planted and ^veeded and the fruit picked, the cows had 
to be milked, the sheep sheared, the horses fed and groomed. 
George often carried water to Pacer’s grandson — a pretty 
animal. 

Uncle Mose was more than a trader in fine horses. He bred 
and trained his racers and trotters so carefully that they 
brought high prices; three hundred dollars in Missouri in 
Reconstruction days was the equivalent of three thousand a 
few years later. Men came from far distances to buy thenx 



8 George Washington Carver 

His bloodhounds, too, which he kept for fox hunting, were 
well bred, and there were seldom less than twenty. Twenty 
hounds can make considerable commotion, with a mess of 
little puppies yelping in soprano and the big fellows baying 
in bass. When this sort of din arose, more often than not it 
was because George had stirred them up by chasing or being 
chased by them; they would run a man as quickly as they 
would a fox, once they got the habit, and Uncle Mose would 
soon appear and put a stop to it. 

He ^vas a strict disciplinarian in some ways. The stick-and^ 
mud chimney of the house had cracks and niches in it, and in 
a certain convenient hollow a certain hen was determined to 
nest. One of the hounds made this joyful discovery and neg- 
lected to destroy the evidence of broken shells lying about. 
A sucking-egg dog was unpardonable to Uncle Mose. He 
switched it until it was broken of the evil habit. 

Though he was a stern man, he would not tolerate cruelty. 
He did not swear as a rule, but anyone who wanted to hear 
what he could do in this respect had only to abuse stock. He 
learned that one of his neighbors, who had recently moved 
into the countryside, did not feed his horse properly. One 
day the fellow came driving up behind the poor rickety 
animal, its ears poked through a big straw bonnet on its head. 
George thought the hat was intended more as a decoration 
than as a protection against the sun and looked apprehen- 
sively at the scowl already spreading over Uncle Mose’s face ; 
even his beard appeared to bristle. 

The man didn’t know him very well and greeted him 
affably, “Mornin’, Uncle Mose.” 

Silence was the only answer. 

The man tried again, “Mornin’, Uncle Mose.’' 

Silence. 

He tried to lighten the atmosphere wath conversation, 
“What d’ya think o’ my horse’s bonnet?” 

“Well, now, Ben, since you asked me I’ll tell you. I think 
if the horse had less millinery and more oats it’d appreciate 
it more.” Then he stomped away to the barn, growling in his 



9 


“I Was Young When I Begun” 
deep voice, “A man that’d be mean to his horse’d be mean to 
his wife.” 

The Carver farm of one hundred and forty acres vvas 
almost self-contained. When someone was sick they didn’t 
send for a doctor; they gathered roots, herbs, and barks, and 
prepared their own medicines. It was George s job to peel the 
bark from the north side of the tree; the bark was then boiled 
and sweetened with honey to make a drench for horses with 
botts. He also had to collect sassafras bark and spice bushes 
to put in the lard and make it smell good. Ashes were saved 
in a hopper, and at fall hog-killing time stacks and stacks of 
soap, both hard and soft, were made. 

Fields of flax stretched away and hemp grew in the fence 
corners. Now that George’s mother was gone, Aunt Sue did 
all the spinning on what had been Mary’s wheels. She wove 
the cloth of flax, hemp, and wool, making heavy working 
garments for Uncle Mose and Jim, George’s little short 
dresses, and her owm long, billowing skirts for wearing about 
the house and hoopskirts for visiting — no lady ever went out 
without her hoops. To dye the clothing, oak bark was used 
for black, hickory for yellow, and chestnut for browns. They 
tanned their own leather and made shoes to wear in the 
winter from the hides of deer, which were as plentiful as 
rabbits. 

George learned little of what sort of person his mother had 
been. He could not ask Aunt Sue because she always cried 
when Mary’s name was mentioned. He did know that she 
had been honest in speech and upright in all her ways. Once 
Aunt Sue commented on George’s remarkable co-ordination 
between hand and eye, saying he was like Mary that w^ay. 
Mary had not been able to read ; she could not tell one letter 
from another, but if she had ever seen a certain almanac 
before, she could find any page in it more quickly than Aunt 
Sue. 

George’s hands seemingly were intended for making things. 
He had often seen Aunt Sue knitting with her four shining 
needles. Then of a sudden he thought, ‘T can do that !” So 



i:o George Washington Carver 

he stood for a while watching just how her fingers moved 
and went outside and picked up turkey feathers. He stripped 
the barbs until just a little tuft was left at the end. Then he 
took the top of a mitten and the top of a stocking, raveled 
them out, and started knitting long strips of the different 
colors with his improvised needles. Occasionally thereafter 
he knitted something practical, but chiefly he knitted just 
because he wanted to know how. 

The boys were allowed to do pretty much as they pleased 
during the intervals between tasks. The split puncheon floor 
had to be scrubbed every Saturday morning. George fol- 
lowed the prescribed routine faithfully and then settled down 
out of doors to the churning. That had to be finished before 
they could go fishing. He and Jim took turns beating and 
beating the old dasher, but one time it simply would not get 
warm enough to make the butter come. 

In order to hasten the processes of nature George scooped 
up a dipperful of hot water from the big iron pot in which 
the clothes were washed and dyed and stealthily poured it 
in. He had tried this before and in his impatience had 
poured in so much the butter was spongy. Gonsequently, he 
knew that if he and Jim were caught Uncle Mose would lint 
their jackets and they would be made to stay at home. But 
the fish were waiting down in the spring branch. 

This time he was more careful, and finally the butter came. 
He presented it to Aunt Sue. She looked at it suspiciously. 
“Why is it so white?” 

Did George reply, “It has been scalded”? He did not. He 
remembered the answer of the little girl whose father asked 
her if she knew what a lie was: “An abomination ^to the 
Lord and an ever-present help in time of trouble.” A boy 
who wants to go fishing is not always responsible. He had 
recourse to this form of help and stuttered innocently, I 
d-d-don t know.” 

Since there was the butter to prove he had worked, and it 
was not too white, no further reprimand was forthcommg. 



II 


“/ Was Young When I Begun'' 

He grabbed his miscellaneous assortment of worms, crickets, 
crawfish scales, and pieces of fat meat, and dodged down to 
the branch. 

When George fished, often the flapping object on the end 
of his string was only a sucker, and nobody cared to cat it, 
because it was so full of bones. But he never went fishing 
without catching something, and his perch or catfish or sun- 
fish or occasional eel Aunt Sue cooked in the ashes of the 
fireplace. 

It was years before a “parlor cook” stove was brought in 
a great wonder, and neighbors came from miles around to 
admire it. Before that, all of the cooking was done in the 
fireplace. Aunt Sue beat the batter and shaped it in a skillet. 
Then she fitted the skillet with a tight lid, set it on the coals, 
and piled more coals in the hollowed place on top. Out would 
come a savory loaf of fatty corn bread four inches deep. 

As a little boy George used to make sandwiches, though he 
had never heard of such things. Often for dinner the family 
had dodgers — com meal wet with water, patted with the 
hands into an ellipse, and baked brown. George would take 
one of these dodgers which had been left on the plate, split 
it, lay strips of home-cured fat meat between, and start for 
the woods. On the way he would pull a wild onion and add 
it to his sandwich. Thus fortified, and with no inclination to 
work, he could stay out all day until suppertime, and then 
meander home. 

Once, way back in infancy’s dim, distorted memory, there 
was a time when no food was to be had except corn, and not 
much of that. It must have been some time after the raiders 
had returned to the farm, tipped over the beehives one by 
one until they had found the money. But the hard days and 
hungry nights had passed, Uncle Mose’s industry had made 
him prosperous again, and now corn, "corn was everywhere. 
It hung yellow and drying from the smoke-blackened rafters; 
they ground it for gmel ; they boiled it like rice ; they parched 
it to eat as children do popcorn. They had hazelnuts, butter* 



*2 George Washington Carver 

nuts, pecans, and walnuts from the woods. Uncle Mose had 
plowed the fence rows, dropped in walnuts, and stepped 

on them. Now he had great walnut hedges around the 
farm. 

He would have no timber cut and no holes dug on the 
place. A company drilled once and found a heavy vein of 
lead, but he would not allow them to go further. They 
offered a good sum to open it up, but he said no. And he 
made them cover the shaft and go away. 

Nothing was bought save coffee and sugar. And these were 
bartered for farm products. The Carvers were good livers, 
though no waste was permitted. On Sundays they had the 
usual chicken dinner, and if it was not all eaten it appeared 
on the table for Monday breakfast; then it came on again 
for dinner and for supper. Uncle Mose would say as he 
reached for the neck, “Got to eat it sometime. Might as well 
do it now.” 

Nothing was thrown out; nothing was burned up that an 
animal could eat. Extra supplies were put away for use dur- 
ing the winter. The huge smokehouse was full of meat, 
butter, and lard. Apples, peaches, pears, blackberries were 
laid out in the sun to dry before storing. Vegetables were 
banked. Cabbage plants by the hundred were turned down 
in trenches in the fields where they had grown, covered with 
six inches of dirt, and only their roots left sticking up. George 
would dig these as needed, slough off the outer leaves, and 
there would be a nice white cabbage head. 

Home canning was in its infancy and none too easy. But 
Aunt Sue had three cans she kept year after year and opened 
only for most unusual company. The lid of the can had a 
groove which she filled with a half-spun roll of cotton and 
covered with sealing wax. 

But first you had to make the sealing wax out of beeswax. 
Uncle Mose, an expert bee hunter, had fifty or sixty hives. 
He would go out with a pan of bait of honey and bee bread 
and burn it on live coals. The bees smelled it four or five 
miles awav and came to sin. Then he watched which way 



"/ fVas Young When I Begun” 13 

they went, followed, and located their tree. After nightfall 
he and Jim smoked them out with a fire of rags and tobacco 
and cut the tree down. Sometimes they got a washtub full of 
honey. Then they cut off a section of the log, and put a top 
on it, and that would be the hive. 

George did not participate in this operation ; he watched 
from a distance because the bees would run for him. As it 
was, he was swelled up most of the time -with stings. Uncle 
Mose did not even wear a net. Often the bees took a notion 
to pick out another tree for themselves, and he scraped 
around with his hand until he found the queen. Then he 
clipped her wings to keep her from wandering off in search 
of a new home and taking the whole s^varm with her. 

Wild turkeys and wild geese abounded, and once Uncle 
Mose killed a bear, which the family ate for a long time. 

Colonel Grant and his slaves had not sur\’ived the war, 
and his farm was now o%vned by the Baynhams. There was a 
big cave on the Ba\Tiham place from which a spring con- 
linually gushed forth, and it was full of bears. George ^voulc^ 
not venture too near it on this account, but he did commit a 
daring act of another sort one day. The Baynham place was 
one of the finest farms in that section, and the brick-and- 
frame house one of the most imposing. George was tolerated 
by some of the neighbors as a comical little chap ; he could 
make them die laughing just looking at him. Others thought 
his prankishness pathetic and gave him special liberties. 
Nevertheless, he knew he had no business going beyond the 
kitchen. In some way, however, he got into the parlor where 
the family portraits were hanging on the wall — the first 
paintings he had ever seen. 

The lines and colors appeared very beautiful to him, and 
through an involved system of questioning he discovered that 
they had been made by someone called an “artist.” He 
thought to himself, “He made them with his bands, he made 
them with his hands. I want to do that.” 

All the way home he said it over and over and finally, as 
though the thought took complete possession of him, he 



14 


George Washington Carver 


stammered the words aloud : “He made them with his hands, 
he made them with his hands. I w'ant to do that.” And the 
refrain sang through his head for days. 

After that he w^as ahvays drawing. He had nothing to draw 
with, but w'herever he found a blank space on a stone or 
board or even on the ground he scratched something or 
other. He made colors out of pokeberries, roots, and bark, 
and painted on cans, w^ooden pails, pieces of glass, anything. 
This occupation was as secret as his little greenhouse in the 
woods; he w^ould not dare bring any such foolishness into the 
house. 

Uncle Mose w'as no more severe with Jim and George than 
he w^ould have been with his o^vn sons; boys w^ere brought up 
that way. He did not teach them by the negative method— 
don’t do this and don’t do that. Once a year each would be 
given the privilege of going to the town of Neosho, the 
county seat, eight miles aw-ay. But they could not go together, 
lest the older influence the younger. Furthermore, it was 
rightly judged that t^vo children together could concoct mis- 
chief one w'ould not think of alone. 

About a week before it was time for Jim or George to 
embark upon this great adventure Uncle Mose would call 
them to him and pronounce a parable: “Once upon a tiine 
there rvere two boys in the same family. One was a spend- 
thrift. He threw away all his money on gewgaw-s, jewelry, 
and prize boxes. The other saved his money and bought a 
setting of eggs. He raised chickens and sold them until he 
had enough to buy a pig. He raised piglets and sold them 
until he had enough to buy a heifer. He raised a couple ol 
calves and sold them and bought a colt. It grew into a horse 
and by that time he had enough money for a saddle and 
bridle. Finally, he was able to buy a suit of clothes.” 

At that point Moses Carver would stop. There was no 
need of his going further because that was the highest peak 


to which anyone could climb. 

When the.time came for Jim or George, 
having his turn, to start for town he emptied the blac g 



15 


"/ JVas Young When I Begun'' 

box he used as a bank, free to spend its contents as his fancy 
led him. But when he returned Uncle Mose would say, Let s 
see what you bought.” If the old gentleman was pleased with 
George’s straw hat or five cents’ worth of fishhooks he ex- 
claimed with much gusto, “That’s good!” He did not quite 
understand when the boy brought home a steel-and-bone 
crochet hook, so he said nothing. But he would look at Jim s 
big glass heart or jew’s-harp and merely remark, A fool and 
his money’s soon parted.” And that was the end of that. No 
scolding was necessary to drive the lesson home. 

George never explained the reason for his early return 
from one of these trips. At first it had been exciting. He had 
encountered the big ornamental wagon of a medicine man 
and slipped through the crowd collected to hear the banjo 
pickers and listen to a spiel about wizard oil, which would 
cure anything. To hear the medicine man talk you could cut 
off a pup’s tail, sprinkle a few drops of oil on it, and the tail 
would grow again in fiv'e minutes. 

When this palled, George had gone walking along, his 
eyes delighted with such items of interest as the brick court- 
house in the public square, which had two stories, one on top 
of the other. With so many new scenes pulling his attention 
t his way and that he could not be expected to watch where 
he was going. Suddenly, as he turned a corner, he bumped 
into the legs of a Negro, big and powerful. George had never 
seen a black face before, except his brother’s. He was com- 
pletely terrified and turned and ran for home without any 
purchase at all. 

Any inclination toward gambling George may have had 
was nipped at his first venture. Uncle Mose’s nephew Dick 
was full of pranks and jokes. He came over one Saturday 
afternoon and exclaimed, “Jim and George, come here! I’ll 
betcha each fifteen cents ya kin put on your shoes an’ tie ’em 
any way ya want — hard’s ya kin — an’ rim aroun’ the house 
three times an’ they’ll be ontied.” 

Both Jim and George promptly put on their shoes and tied 
the rawhide laces in hard knots. Gaily they ran around the 



17 


‘7 Was Young When I Begun’' 

the door at night, because Raw-Head-and-Bloody-Bones was 
lurking out there. But one evening he got so mad nothing 
could frighten him. The other boys, knowing he was a victim 
of shyness, used to tease him about the girls, and when they 
did that he threw rocks at them or jumped on them and gave 
them a good killing. 

Then one night there was going to be a party at Mrs. 
Selby’s. George knew what it would be like ; they would have 
Ton Honor games in which someone would lose a forfeit and 
to redeem it would be ordered to turn and bust so and so. 
They asked him to come, and at first he said no. “You want 
to get me there and make me do something I don’t want 
to do.” But they crossed their hearts and promised they 
wouldn’t. So he went. 

When the games started, they called off sides and found 
they lacked one person. They begged him to come in, but he 
was suspicious. “You want to make me kiss a girl.” 

“Oh no. We won’t do that.” 

“Then I’ll come in.” 

Almost the first thing, George lost a forfeit. “Heavy, heavy 
hangs over your head. What will the owner do to redeem it? 

“Bust Clarissa three times.” 

Clarissa Swan was rough and ugly to the minute. George 
said he wasn’t going to kiss her or any other swan and started 
to walk off. They pulled him back and tried to make him, so 
George went to fighting. Clarissa grabbed him, and he 
slapped her. 

At this point Mrs. Selby stepped in. “You told a story,” she 
said severely to the other boys. “And I don’t blame George.” 

George didn’t wait for the argument to be settled. He 
picked up his things and started for home, tramping over a 
mile across the fields, so mad he forgot to be frightened of 
the dark. 

Parties then were for young and old together. More often 
than not they consisted of husking bees, apple parings, log 
rollings, wool pickings, or quilting parties. Uncle Mose was 
the best fiddler thereabouts. A really first-class party could 



1 6 George Washington Carver 

house — this was easy money — ^three times. They came back 
panting but triumphant. 

“Jest like I said,” shrieked Dick. “Yur shoes is on an’ tied !” 

Jim declared it was a swindle and wouldn’t pay. But 
George offered no argument. He went to his box and fished 
out ten cents in paper money and five big copper coins, which 
he silently handed over. Gone was his little hoard, but he 
\vas cured of betting. 

George did not have much time for play, but he did some- 
times join the other boys at shinny. He always bore a nick in 
his shin where a tin can swiped him. There was no such thing 
as a ball. Balls made of rags were used for throwing purposes, 
but one of these would not have lasted long under the furious 
assaults of shinny. Instead, a tin can was knocked back and 
forth between the two teams with sticks of hickory or any- 
thing else that had a knob on it. You had to keep it going, 
and if you managed to knock it through the other boys’ line, 
you won. 

When George did play, he had so much fun that, like any 
other boy, he was likely to keep shoving off the fact that it 
\N^as growing later and later and he still had to get the stock 
in. One particular time Uncle Mose was making one of his 
rare trips to Neosho and probably wouldn’t be back for quite 
a while yet. 

Finally it was unmistakably twilight, and George had to 
stop. But by this time the bam was so dim he couldn’t see to 
fork the hay down. He slipped into the house, abstracted the 
tin lantern, and lit the candle. It was strictly forbidden to 
have a light in the bam with all that hay about. He was 
working as fast as he could by the feeble light that flickered 
through the holes punched through the tin when he became 
aware that Uncle Mose had arrived and was standing there 
watching him. He hurried even faster; one word of back 
talk and he would have been in for it. But Uncle Mose let 
him finish and put the lantern back, apparently counting on 

fear to take the place of a switching. 

Ordinarily George was deathly afraid to set foot outside 



1 8 George Washington Carver 

not be held without Uncle Mose playing his fiddle. He tried 
taking George to one of these gatherings, but the youngster 
was alarmed by the crowd and the noise ; he slipped out and 
walked home. 

Little boys made cornstalk fiddles the same way little girls 
made rag dolls. “Cornstalk fiddle and rausum bow makes 
best old music you ever did know.” Young stalks had a better 
resonance than old, dried ones, and with a bow strung from 
a wisp of a horse’s tail George could produce a sort of rhythm 
to jig to. He did not know anything to speak of about music, 
but he knew more than anybody else except Uncle Mose, and 
\rillingly showed some of the women in the neighborhood 
how he made music come out of an organ or guitar. 

He had a wonderful memory, and at what they called 
their “literaries” was good at singing or debating on some 
such subject as, “Was the mother of a chicken the hen that 
laid the egg or the one that hatched it?” 

Shooting matches were the big thing for gro\vnups. The 
men would chip in and buy a sheep or an ox and then shoot 
for the parts— hindquarter, foreside, and so on. If anyone hit 
a bull’s-eye, he had another shot. Uncle Mose was so good 
that if he got the first tr>', he was sure to drive the animal 
home. Jhn practiced until he reached the same point j he, 
too, was ruled out, to give the others a chance. 

George, on the other hand, was completely helpless with a 
gun. His long suit was to bring down game with rocks. He 
was a center shot with a rock, and no rabbit could get out of 
his way. \Vhatever he threw at he hit. He used to throw at 
snowbirds, little birds that came to pick up bits of grain and 
seed scattered in the course of feeding the stock. He took 
pleasure in doing that. Then one morning he threw a sharp 
pellet and knocked off the top of a bird’s head— scalped it. 
He ran and picked it up and the blood trickled over his hand. 
He stood and looked at it for a while until the tears started. 
He cried and cried and couldn’t seem to stop. That was the 

last of the murder of the innocents. 

George himself was very much like a young bird, all head 



19 


“I Was Young When 1 Begun'' 

and mouth. And he looked like one as he sat way out on a 
limb, where the huskier youths did not dare to follow, and 
laughed at them. His body was so slight it could go anywhere 
his head could go. When he was the one to be chased, he was 
always far ahead; muscular farm lads could climb a fence 
pretty fast, but George could go through any crack in it. 
Then he would dodge out of sight in some small hiding place 
and rest until he had strength to light out again. He could 
have kept this up* all day and they could never have caught 
him, because they would be all worn out with steady running. 

Once he came back from a chase crying. The old folks 
asked why he wept, but he wouldn’t answer. He wouldn’t tell 
them he had poked his head through a crack and stuck 
there; he couldn’t wriggle through. His frame had begun to 
grow a little, as it ought, but this was a distinct calamity to 
George. 

With one of Uncle Mose’s hunting knives George con- 
trived to fashion some crutches for a crippled boy, so that he 
might play with the others, but you couldn’t just manufacture 
a knife. For George, a knife of his own was an impossible 
wish. Then one night he had a dream. He dreamed he saw 
a watermelon lying in a cornfield. It had been cut and par- 
tially eaten and the rind was l)ing at the foot of three corn- 
stalks. Also lying at the foot of the three cornstalks was a tiny 
lady’s knife, not much larger than a pencil, with a black 
handle and two blades. 

George could hardly swallow his breakfast, he was in such 
a hurry, and it was just growing light when he made a direct 
line over fences and across furrows to the place of his dream. 
There were the three cornstalks, there were the remnants of 
the watermelon, and there was the knife — his to polish in the 
earth, his to use for whatever purpose he wished, his to keep 
by him always until he was a man. 

This \ision did not seem strange to him then, nor did he 
thereafter consider his special gift of sight at all odd. He 
merely said, “It is easy for me to foresee things.” He did not 
speak of it as a child because it tied up somehow with faith 



20 George Washington Carver 

and religion and the Proverb, “Those that seek me early shall 
find me.” But Uncle Mose did not believe in the Bible. 

The Locust Grove schoolhouse, started during Reconstruc- 
tion, ^\^as less than a mile from the Carv’er home. Here church 
was held each Sunday morning, a Methodist or Baptist or 
Campbellite or Presbyterian coming out from Neosho on 
horseback to conduct the services. 

Though practically all the community life in those days 
centered around the church, and the Carvers were considered 
infidels because they did not attend. Uncle Mose was of suffi- 
cient quality and substance to be respected in spite of his 
unbelief. 

If a neighbor had malaria just when the grain had ripened. 
Uncle Mose joined the other neighbors who came to help 
with the harvest. When death carried some away, he gave a 
piece of his land not far from the house to be used as a grave- 
yard. Though he himself did not attend the bur>ings, George 
did. The little group of mourners stood on fence rails laid 
about the fresh graye to keep their feet dry, but he had been 
bom to stand apart. A little way off from the others and 
alone, his feet in the mud, he watched with solemn eyes the 
earth reclaim its own. 

The new Constitution of Missouri provided for free school 
instmction for all between the ages of five and twenty. But 
that, somehow, did not seem to include George. Though he 
could not go to school with white children, he was permitted 
to attend the Sabbath-school class which was held before 
the church services, and afterward he could sit on the steps 
and listen to the singing. Even as a very Httle boy he had a 
studious nature. He was quiet and a good listener and ac- 
cepted the Word in a serious manner, wandering about after- 
ward and holding a solitary communion with Nature. 

Sundays as well as weekdays he made a faithful pilgrimage 
to his three-by-six garden plot, occasionally digging up his 
plants to see if they were growing. He brooded over qu^tiom 
he could not answer: how roses became double, why the 
leaves on the same tree were different, why clover and oxalis 



21 


"7 Was Young When I Begun'' 

folded at night and on dark days, what insects were doing in 
the flowers. He longed to be able to “mix” flowers, as he 
called it, and planted them close together, hoping they would 

mix. 

From the time he was virtually a baby in the woods he 
wanted to know the name of every stone, insect, flower he 
saw. He had a book given him by Aunt Sue — ^Webster’s old 
blue-back Speller — that had a picture of a man climbing a 
high cliff on the top of which stood a temple of learning. Few 
people thereabouts could even write, but George had studied 
the Speller until he knew every word. However, it did not 
reveal the names of the birds, so he made up names to suit 
himself. Having once tasted of the fruit of knowledge and 
caught a glimpse of the mysteries hidden in words, he could 
not rest content. 

He had not made knowledge a part of himself until he had 
done something with it ; abstractions had to be made con- 
crete. When stray copies of Little Women and Little Men 
found their way out to those parts, he said, “I can do that. I 
can write a book.” And straightway he wrote a long, long 
story after what he considered was the general manner of 
Miss Alcott. 

George looked with longing at the doors of the schoolhouse 
closed to him and announced grandly that someday he was 
going to have a school of his own where boys would learn to 
do cooking and housework the same as girls. He was going to 
teach the things he himself could do with his hands. This was 
childish prattle and laughed at as such. He was told he didn’t 
know what he was talking about, which was quite true, but 
he stubbornly continued to cherish the notion in secret, and 
never entirely relinquished it. 

George had had no contact with the rest of the four million 
lately emancipated who were stirring with a vast racial long- 
ing for education, which would free their minds as well as 
their bodies. It is probable that the yearning within him was 
an individual thing and would have driven him on regardless 
of his color. 



22 George Washington Carver 

When he finally stammered out his consuming desire, the 
Carvers did not seek to hold him back. Accordingly, this frail 
boy, smaller than his theoretical ten years, placed his bare 
black feet on the road to knowledge. Abandomng the secur- 
ity of home and the safety that lies in familiar things, George 
set out so willingly to school. 



CHAPTER III 


'^The Young Lambs Must Find the Way 


Tie immediate Mecca of this little pilgrim was 
Neosho. Eight miles was not much of a walk for a ^untry 
boy, though it was uphill and down and up agam. By late 
afternoon George was trudging along the city streets, dre^ed 
to kill in his Sabbath suit, the rest of his possessions tied m a 
big bandanna handkerchief. He had come this far success- 
fuUy, but had no notion what to do next. He just kept on 
walking, around and around, until the ache of weariness 
crept up his legs. Still he couldn’t think what he was to do 
with himself for the night. 

Finally he stood stiU. Before him gaped the broad open 
door of a bam. Bams he knew and horses he knew. He 
dodged into the shadows and found, almost by instinct, the 
boards nailed to uprights that led to the hayloft. He bur- 
rowed into the dusty pile and lay there while the rats gradu- 
ally and cautiously resumed the patter and scurry which had 
been interrupted by his invasion. Breathing the familiar and 
comforting smell of horses and leather, he finally fell asleep 
and slept a^A^ay his loneliness and tiredness. 

When George awoke he listened for the occasional thud 
of a horse’s hoof and the soft switch of a tail and a heavy 
body mbbing against the stall. He peered over the edge of 
the loft into the open carriage space of the bam, which was 
coming to life in a faint gray way. It would soon be daylight, 
and someone would approach his sanctuary to fork the hay 
into the mangers. Like a small black shadow he slipped 
down and out to the sweet, fresh air of dawn. 

George wandered about for a bit, and then sat down on a 


23 


24 George Washington Carver 


convenient woodpile to think what he should do about the 
hunger that was contracting his stomach. In the big grassy 
yard sunflowers and tiger Ulies were beginning to glow in the 
light of their brother, the sun. The small house was un- 
painted, but neatness shone about it. Presently there ap- 
peared in the doorway a small wiry woman with dancing 
eyes in a light bro\vn skin. Starting with quick steps for the 
woodpile to build the breakfast fire, she spied the thin and 
timid little figure perched upon her kindling. She recogmzed 
his look as one which a full belly would help and drew him 
into her home and her warm heart. 

Mariah Watkins was a woman with a fine expression, 
swift and bold of speech. There was no nonsense about her 
though. Her deep kindliness and great goodness declared 
themselves in direct and immediate action. When she had 
satisfied the first needs of the stray she scrubbed hiin shining 

^being a conscientious midwife, she knew the virtues of 

hot water and was lavish in its use. Then she wrapped a big 
apron around him as though he were a girl and proceeded 
with the third step toward salvation— work. 

No children had resulted from Aunt Mariah’s marriage 
to Andrew Watkins. Uncle Andy, short, stubby, brown- 
skinned also, and above the average in intelligence, did gen- 
eral job work in the community. He, too, was a person of 
character and had a clear tenor voice which George admired 


and tried to emulate. 

Aunt Mariah had delivered the orphan from fear and 
want and she particularly cherished this foster son, whom 
she always spoke of as “my George.” In the broad net of her 
love, however, she also held hundreds of childr^, bo* 
white and colored, whom she considered her otra, whom she 
had delivered over the years as a midwife. The “teem “ 
which Aunt Mariah was held spread far out to w ere 

streets of *e town changed to country roads. Th^*e 

would travel, sometimes a hundred miles, for a 
clientele was chiefly among *e well to do, wto 
forcefulness and relied upon her efficiency. Once, when she 



25 


‘^The Young Lambs Must Find the iVay 

was very old and gave a party for her white children, some 
thirty cars were parked outside the little house anc 
“best families” of Neosho and Joplin, twenty miles aiva>. 

Aunt Mariah always said she would rather have ^ y 
George” about the house than a girl. Under her aegis he 
learned how to wash clothes until they gleamed on the line 
and how to press the iron smoothly into intricate 
Most important, when he whitewashed the walls or scrubbed 
the floors, he was learning how to make a home. He did not 
need to be taught thrift, industrv', and self-reliance. Life had 
done that for him. But the molds could be solidly set, and 
this, if they needed doing. Aunt Mariah and Uncle Andy did. 

Sometimes she took George to the African Methodist 
Church which she attended. The preacher, whose name was 
Givens, could not read a word and had to have someone else 
read the text for him, but he was such a good man. He 
actually lived what he preached, and made a profound^im- 
pression on George. Aunt Mariah was one of those who “Do 
believe, without a doubt, that Christians got a right to shout.” 
She shouted with the rest in church. Nevertheless, she liked 
quiet — children must not laugh on Sundays, and George 
crept about his duties like a mouse. He was, on the whole, a 
quiet child and became a quiet man. 

It is doubtful whether Aunt Mariah could read perhaps 
a little — but she prayed a great deal and instilled in her 
foster son her devotion to the Word of God. When he was 
nearly eighty he was still reading the Bible she gave him, 
keeping the place with the bookmark he embroidered under 


her vigilant eye. 

Reconstruction days were hard for white and colored alike 
in Missouri. It was still staggering from the impact of the 
war and what might almost be called its own private civil 
war within its own boundaries. Nevertheless, the Freedmen’s 
Bureau was operating, and schools of a sort were being 
started. 

Just over the fence from the Watkins house was the crude 



26 George Washington Carver 

frame building of the colored school of Neosho. Its first 
teacher, a white woman, had been replaced by a Negro, 
Stephen S. Frost. In the one room of the Lincoln School, a 
tumbledovNTi cabin fourteen feet by sixteen, he did the best 
he could with his owm limited education for the seventy-five 
children massed on the high, hard benches before him. 

Into this throng George was promptly inserted. Being now 
admittedly a “person,” despite the Dred Scott Decision, he 
was entitled to a surname and, according to ex-slave custom, 
Car\'er’s George was transformed into George Carver. He 
was an absorptive sponge whose thirst for more knowledge 
was increased with the salt of fervor. This was what he had 
left home for. When the bell rang for recess, he hopped over 
the fence which separated the Watkins house from the school 
ground with his book in his hand. He propped it above the 
tub and read as he scrubbed. The bell rang; recess was done. 
George dried his hands, picked up his book, and hopped 
back over the fence to sit at the feet of learning and tran- 
scribe such learning onto his little six-by-nine slate. When 
the day’s classes were finished and the other children trooped 
homeward, over the fence he went once more to help Aunt 
Mariah and Uncle Andy with the milking or bringing in the 
wood. And, immediately after the chores, the book was open 

again before him. x, a 

Some time after George had come to Neosho, Jun had 

followed and he, too, attended classes for a while. But he was 
not a scholar. Before long he abandoned school and started 
to learn the plasterer’s trade, at which he was much more 
apt. The town had a large colored population. It was pleas- 
ant for Jim to be in a community of his own sort. He felt 
the difference and was at home. He was physically older 
than his vears; he seemed a young man, and a very we - 
liked young man. He himself liked the Jefferson girl who 
lived next door, but Stephen Frost got there first and mar- 

This incensed George, who didn’t think much 
teacher anyhow. He wasn’t old enough to know many things 




M 





‘‘The Young Lambs Must Find the Way 27 
about people, but there were certain ones he disliked instinc- 
tivelv— Mr. Frost was ashamed of being a Negro. 

George was devoted to his big brother and. though no two 
boys could have been more different, they were always go,^ 
companions. One thing they had m common was the gi t 
mimicry. They clowned with each other, and when t y 
walked back together on Saturday afternoons to visit the 
Carvers and happened on a party they were called on lor 


comic ICClLatlOiac. , , . ^ 

Fred Baynham had given Jim a book of choice selections, 
and George had bought one also— T/zc Dime Ludicrous 
Speaker. Each had his favorites and willingly rendered them, 
George’s performances, as was natural, given their different 
temperaments, possessing finer shadings. Jim would oblige 
with the “Hard-Shell Sermon” and George with the “Lec- 
ture on Woman’s Rights”; then Jim with “Where the Hen 
Scratches, There She Expects to Find the Bug,” and George 
with Mark Twain’s “Good Little Boy.” As the book advised, 
George dehvered Josh Billings’ “Uncle Toby”^ with “serio- 
mock solemnity,” and, as the book promised, his small audi- 


ence found it “very laughable.” 

With the town boys of his own age George did not spend 
a great deal of time. They were not like those at home, and 
he was shy of strangers. Boisterousness alarmed him. He was 
still delicate, half sick most of the time, and he shrank from 
shouts and noise. They would tease him to join their rough 
and tumble, and sometimes he would play for a little while 
before bedtime, but it would usually be with little girls, or in 
quieter games in which he felt more sure of himself. 

They soon learned to stop competing when he fished out 
his pocket knife that he had found in the cornfield and 
started to practice mumblety-peg, flipping it nimbly over his 
left shoulder while he held on to the lobe of his right ear. No 
one could beat him at that game and, moreover, he was said 
to be pretty good at marbles. They played for keeps, and his 
bag of mibs swelled and swelled as his one real agate rolled 
unerringly for its mark. 



28 


George Washington Carver 


But these diversions were infrequent as compared with 
other children’s playtime. George had a living to earn. Work 
\vas his natural lot. Aunt Mariah was an unusually fine cook. 
She prepared the meals herself when she was at home, and 
George, by standing around and watching her, absorbed 
some of her technique. At least he could take over and keep 
house for Uncle Andy while she was away on her frequently 
long trips. 

Whenever he could find jobs he went out to work for other 
people about the town. One of these was Mrs. Slater. Though 
there was little Mrs. Slater could teach George in the way of 
cooking, like Aunt Mariah she had a hand in educating him 
in fundamentals. She trusted and depended on him and, in 
spite of his lack of years and size, gave him a good bit of 
responsibility. Once she and her husband went on a trip to 
St. Louis and she left him in charge of the house. They were 
away longer than they had intended, and George occupied 
the time fixing this and cleaning that and polishing the other. 
'When they returned, eagerly and enthusiastically he started 
an account of all the things he had accompHshed. But she 
soon stopped him with, “Now, George, don’t tell me the 
number of things you have done, but how well you have done 
them.” This was a little lesson he took very much to heart 
and always remembered. 

There was one period in which George thoroughly enjoyed 
himself. He had the mumps. He was not sick enough to feel 
bad, and for once ^vas free from labor of any kind. He didn t 
ha\ c to cut ^v•ood and he didn’t have to scrub the floor. He 
had no chin at all and was the funniest-looking thing. If he 
swallowed anything sour he yelled and carried on, but that 
NN-as all that stopped him. He romped and cavorted and stood 
on his head and talked back and was babied until he nearly 


burst with self-importance. 

Soon thereafter he was allowed his first experience m 
poultry raising, entirely on his own. He set a goose on thirteen 
cergs. He sta) cd awake on hatching night, and kept running 
out to see it ever>^ few minutes— such an exciting expenence. 



“The Young Lambs Must Find the Way 29 
In Ae morning his score was .00 per cent perfect-all thir- 
tccn were hatched. • r i 'Thp kitchen 

L trap of childhood: one afternoon he went ° 
marbles. He was in good form and was cleaning all comers 
out of their mibs. He stayed too long. When he came back, 
the plot ^vas as bare of greens as the palm of his han . 

He screamed at the goslings, which made for the pond as 
hard as they could go, he after them crying and throwing 
stones. But he was so furious over their audacity that e 
couldn’t hit anything, and threw one rock so hard he lost his 
balance and tumbled into the pond himself. He clambere 
out, a sorry figure dripping with tears and muddy water. 
Aunt Mariah was cross, as she had every right to be, but she 
was not one to do more than scold. That was punishment 
enough. In fact, instead of her incisive, condemnatory voice, 
George would have much preferred a strapping and have it 


over with. 

Aunt Mariah fostered the handicraft talents of her foster 
son, but she did not really need to teach him how to mend 
clothes with fine stitches, to kmt, or to plait rag rugs. His 
fingers adapted themselves almost insensibly to the things 
they had to do. Having been born with knowledgeable hands 
and a quick brain to guide them, he could ^valk uptown and 
see a set of collars and cuffs on a woman’s dress, come home, 
and crochet the same without having any notion of the 
process by which the originals had been manufactured. He 
could effect a like result without being shown. Just as simply 
he hemstitched the first handkerchief he had ever owned, and 
made patterns with knotted pieces of string, with cross-stitch, 
and with rickrack. 

He did not know how other people made patterns, eithei 



30 


George Washington Carver 


for crochet or living. He had learned by now that he was a 
Negro, and as such had nothing to look forward to in the 
way of a better life. Little Negro boys could not dream 
dreams of being rich and famous someday, or even of achiev- 
ing some fine purpose. But having no optimism nor hope to 
obscure the design, he plodded on, weaving it in his own 
fashion. The particular kind of world into which he had 
chanced to be bom was grayly lit with trouble, but the beauty 
inherent in order and design was a satisfaction and a com- 
pensation. A huge, insatiable question mark had been in his 
mind ever since he could think at all: “I want to know.” He 
fed it fuel constantly, and it was never satisfied. But it diH 
repay him with energ)q his ‘T want to know,” followed by its 
corollary, “I can do that,” was the dynamo which powered 
his life. 

In short order George had mastered all Stephen Frost 
could teach him and more. But he continued some time 
longer hopping the fence to school and back again. Though 
he was growing older, he was not growing much larger, and 
he was weak and tired all the time. He kept thinking, if he 


could only go away somewhere, a change of climate or some- 
thing might make him get better. 

When he was thirteen or so he learned of a family that was 
moving to Fort Scott in Kansas, and they agreed to take him 
with them. Uncle Andy made a will lea\dng everythmg he 
had to George, and George solemnly returned the compli- 
ment, leaving to Uncle Andy the pennies he might amass 
someday. He and Jim tramped back to Diamond Grove to 
pay a last \isit to the Car\^ers, and they had their pictures 
taken, George in his first store shirt, with ruffles. Then he 
bade farewell to his brother, climbed aboard one of the mu e 
wagons, setded himself gingerly on the shaky pile of furm- 

ture, and set forth upon his travels. , , . j 

Both wagons were stacked high with beds and chairs and 
tables, and pots and pans jingled all the way to Fort Scott 
They were so loaded that the family took turns walkmg or 
riding when one would give out. Many days passed before 



"The Young Lambs Must Find the Waf 3* 

they had covered the seventy-five miles, and when they did 
arrive, George knew nobody. Having a healthy stomach and 
taking a Uvely interest in keeping it occupied, he had to 
hustle around for a job. Mrs. Payne, it seemed, needed a 
hired girl, so he went to her house, a fine large one, the sor 
he had known only from the outside. He approached with 
apparent confidence. 

“I heard you wanted someone to do housework. 

Looking at him rather dubiously, Mrs. Payne agreed, and 
then added, “But do you know how to cook?” 

George’s cooking had been chiefly of the corn-and-por 
variety, but this was no time for hesitation, and he was 
utterly certain of his ability to do things with his hands 
anything. So he stoutly answered, “Yes ma’am.” 

“Very well,” said Mrs. Payne, “I’ll give you a chance, but 
my husband is very particular. He likes his meat and his 
greens just so, and the pudding must be right or he won’t 
touch it. I hope you make good coffee. You can start dinner 
now.” 

George was taken aback at the unwonted length and 
variety of the menu ordered, but gave no hint of his unfamil- 
iarity with the dishes. Instead, he said cannily, “Mrs. Payne, 
I’m so anxious to do this just like you’re used to. If you show 
me how you do it. I’ll be sure to have things just the way 
you like them.” 

So Mrs. Payne, iimocent of his stratagem, showed him 
how much of this she put into her biscuits and how much of 
that, quite unaware that she was showing him actually how 
to make biscuits. Then the performance was repeated with 
the bread pudding, which he had never even seen before. 
He stumbled through that meal successfully and went right 
on in like fashion. Mrs. Payne never knew how inexperienced 
he had been, because the second batch of biscuits — and 
these he made entirely by himself — ^was much better than 
her own. “I can beat you all to pieces,” he thought to him- 
self, and did so. 

In no time George was expert in dealing with ovens. And 



32 George Washington Carver 

when a bread-making contest was held, he took prizes with 
his yeast bread, salt-rising bread, and yeast and buttermilk 
batter biscuits. 

Whenever George had saved a small sum he went to 
school. He learned with extraordinary rapidity, and man- 
aged to crowd a lot into a few weeks here and there. As his 
money ran out, he sought other jobs, usually finding little 
difficulty, being hired in different houses just as a girl would 
be. 

George was working for a colored blacksmith whose wife 
^vas an invalid when he encountered stark horror. He had 
been sent on an errand to the drugstore one afternoon about 
four o’clock. Around the jail, which was not far off, a crowd 
was gathering ominously. Darkness ^vas falling as he re- 
turned, and more and more men were joining the mob. Its 
roar mounted in a bestial crescendo until the citizens of Fort 
Scott finally tore the Negro prisoner from the jail. 

On the kdewalk directly before the blacksmith’s house 
they beat out his brains. Women and children snatched at 
bits of him for souvenirs. They dragged the bloody mess to 
the public square, poured oil over it, and set it alight. The 
stench of burning human flesh rose in a noisome pall. It 
filled the boy’s nostrils and seeped like a black cloud of terror 
into his brain. He shuddered through the night, and before 
daylight could re\'eal the scene of man’s ferocity he was 
aw3>y out of that place forever. 



CHAPTER IV 


^‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child 


From then on George was truly a wanderer. He 
went from town to town and countless little places, sweeping 
yards, sawing wood, sandwiching in a bit of schooling when 
and where he could. Someone would say, “Come with me 
and you can get a job,” so he would go with that person, 
perhaps to another part of the state entirely. He was so skill- 
ful at homecrafts that he could usually get work which paid 

at least enough to keep him alive. 

Sometimes he stayed a week in one place during harvest- 
time. He loved to bind wheat and oats ; he could walk behind 
che machine, pick up the bundle as it fell, make a double tie 
in a steady whirl, and never pause in his walking. He could 
keep up this strange performance all day. At other times he 
got jobs in greenhouses; it might be for no pay if he had 
a few pennies saved. The opportunity to handle flowers and 
plants was enough. 

George’s progress at school was just more of the same 
thing— extending his knowledge of the three /?’s. Some were 
colored schools and some were mixed, but there was not 
much to choose between them. Often he could not get what 
he needed to finish a grade in one place, so he would try to 
fit it in somewhere else. Or his little means would run out 
before certain lessons were completed, and he would have 
to make them up at some later date. Much of his time was 
spent studying where he was going to sleep the following 
night, how to get his next meal, how to get a book he 
needed. There were no free books for colored children. 
Often he had to study with somebody, or even share the 
same slate. 



34 


George Washington Carver 


Always he wanted to leam, to know. He thirsted for 
something, and whenever he saw a chance to satisfy that 
thirst, he moved automatically toward it. At Diamond 
Grove he had not questioned why he could not go to school 
with the other children — he just knew that he could not. 
But as he went about now from place to place, the reason 
was borne in upon him. Though he was aware of the reason, 
it still seemed the embodiment of nothingness ^he could 
see no point to it. He didn’t want to be somebody else, he 
didn’t want to change in any way. He simply wanted to be 
what he was. He wanted the opportunity to develop along 
the lines ordained by his nature and not be told. You may 
go thus far and no farther.” Therefore, he proceeded, to the 
best of his ability, as though he were not going to be stopped. 

George was an insignificant little chap, and most people 
thought he was rather cute. Many had a kindly feeling 
toward him and would give advice, though he had no real 
shelter. If he landed among those who were not kindly, he 
had to put up with it. He learned what it meant to be 
stormed at like an animal. Sometimes he thought that a 
mule was more fortunate than he, because it could feel only 
blows of the body and not of the spirit. Not only was he an 
orphan, but he had no more birthday than a hog would 
have. Imagine a wagon or other chattel creaking out t e 
glad tidings of its birth! No one had ever ^Id George the 
dav he was born, he was not even sure of the year He never 
thought to consult the census records, so he never ew t a 

it was i860. 1 u ^ 

His orphaned state had some advantages. Smce he had 

nobody to look alter him, he learned to depend on himself 
alone. He learned that self-pity is a destructive ““ 

that if he were able to stand the blows they hdp 

develop him and he would make progress; if he couldn t, he 


would just flatten out* - , tt u ^ 

In the process his independence flourished. He would not 

allow anyone to give him anything. Even in his earty teem 
became enveloped in a stiff and almost violent pnde. If a 



^^Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” 35 

man asked him to draw a bucket of water and then held 
out a quarter instead of a nickel, he would pull back from 
the outstretched hand, even though he might have a clamor- 
ing belly and not a penny to his name. All he asked was work 
to do and fair payment. This was not caused by a shame ot 
accepting charity, but by a logical mind that balanced things 
-so much work, so much pay-and he did not want hi.s 
mind to be warped out of shape. Sometimes he was laughed 
at, but he remained stubborn. He agreed it was kind of 
people but not reasonable to offer something for nothing. 

Whatever came, George accepted his lot without whin- 
ing; it was simply the way things were. People of his own 
race were poor, too, and they had problems of their ovvn and 
children of their own to occupy them. In self-protection he 
put the pain aside, and just kept scurrying around, scratch- 
ing for something to eat. 

George was almost always on the move, consequently al- 
most always among strangers. He left a trail of gifts behind 
him to those who had been kind. It might be his reading 
lamp, it might be a pen, but his gratitude would usually find 
some means of expression. Sometimes he completed a filet 
collar to give away, but chiefly he made his lace just as pieces 
of design, for his own pleasure. It was his form of expres- 


sion. 

He had a compulsion to create with his own hands the 
things he saw about him; he would always find a way to do 
them, and not from books. Once a man came through the 
country making horsehair watch chains with big open links. 
George followed his movements intently, then went away 
and snipped off a wisp of hair from a horse’s mane where 
it would not be noticed and made a horsehair watch chain 
with big open links. 

Somewhere in his travels he had picked up an accordion, 
for which he paid the vast sum of seven dollars, and this 
inanimate but noisy object gave him a lot of satisfaction. It 
was a huge thing and difficult to manipulate, having two 
bells on the upper right-hand corner operated by a lever he 



3^ 


George Washington Carver 


pressed with his right forefinger. These bells he interpolated 
into the score wherever he thought they would be most 
effective. At least he thought he could play, though he was 
more than likely to strike a flat where a sharp should be and 
alarm the whole neighborhood. 

In the town of Paola he had an upstairs room and ^vould 
sit at the window, the accordion resting heavily on his lap. 
As soon as he saw someone coming he started to play furi- 
ously until the passerby looked up, admiringly, as George 
believed. One day he saw a man approaching— the music 
teacher who lived directly beneath him. This was a real 
chance to show his ability. He seized his instrument and 
dashed into a spirited rendition of “Home, Sweet Home.” 
The teacher paused and stood staring upward. George, very 
pleased with himself, pumped away more energetically than 
ever. But the teacher was not expressing approval; he was 
shaking his head sorrowfully. George slowly eased the thing 
down to the floor; he had lost his taste for it. He decided 
then that he would play it right or not at all, and meanwhile 


he would wait until he learned how. 

The boy was alone, but not lonely in the sense that he 
particularly desired human companionship or aid or com- 
fort. Since all outdoors was his home, he never lacked for 
one. He had countr>' roads that were free to walk on and 
fields and woods full of fascinating and mysterious life. Would 
he ever kiiow^ what rocks were made of? Why this soil should 
be red and that black or vellow or mottled? Such thoughts 
occupied him incessantly; his hands and his brain were too 

busy to leave room for brooding. ^ 

In the course of time he arrived in Olathe, still follo\vmg 

0,e steep trail ot learning, cut by plenty of sharp guUe>_s 
alon" its course. In search of work and education, he ve 
for a while with a barber and his wife. With some for y 
colored children he went to school in an old building whic 
had once been a grocery store. The family shordy m^ 
away, but George was taken in by Mr, and Mrs. Christopher 
Sevmour. At first this was chiefly that he might contmue his 



“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" 37 

school without any more interruptions, but the Scy" 
were childless, as the Watkinses had been, and soon George 
^pld the place of the son they lacked. He was a son to 
be proud of, being gentle and considerate and able to keep 

house as well as a girl. . . i i, uvc. qIip 

Aunt Lucy Seymour was precise in her habits She 

been accustomed to bake one biscuit each for herself and he 

husband. Now there were three in the family. According y, 

she baked three biscuits and placed them on the table. But 

before she could sit down George’s was gone and he was 

asking for bread and announcing that he hadn’t even begun 

to eat yet. But all the food he consumed didn’t seem to make 

him grow much. She thought, rather helplessly, that if she 

rnuld hobble him he might put on weight, but he was never 


still— he was going all the time. 

In his wanderings George had never fallen into bad com- 
pany. He inclined far less toward rowdyism^ than toward 
religion. Uncle Seymour was a devoutly religious man and 
George went with him to morning and afternoon services on 
Sundays, wrapped in his big shawl to keep out the cold 
of the unheated Presbyterian church. He became a member 
at this time, and supposedly that remained his denomina- 
tion, since he never heard of being turned out. Though, 
actually, all denominations were alike to him and he always 
attended whatever church happened to be available. 

Aunt Lucy was a lovely character, but firm. She had be- 
longed to a Virginia family and considered her background 
socially superior to that of colored people who had had less 
exalted associations. George, however, was permitted to join 
her nieces and nephews in their recreation, and spent many 
evenings at the old games of checkers, tiddlywinks, and 
dominoes. Daytimes he devoted to school, going through the 
fifth grade and the skth, playing his accordion for the Fri- 
day exercises — a studious, neat, reserved lad. 

Eventually the Seymours moved to Minneapolis, Kansas, 
taking George with them. At that time he was still so under- 
sized that he could ride on half fare, but suddenly h\s length 



38 George Washington Carver 

began to stretch out to the six feet he was finally to attain. 
He accomplished the entire feat practically in one year. 

He was quiet, but not solemn. On the contrary, he had a 
merry heart. He belonged to the local melody bands — quar- 
tets or quintets made up of elocutionists and fiddlers and 
virtuosos on the jew’s-harp or mouth organ, though he never 
could perform on these last because the metal against his 
teeth set his nerves rasping. His description of Rubinstein 
playing the piano was generally considered a masterpiece 
of humor and pathos. 

There were still a few words he could not say without 
stammering; nevertheless, he was the prize performer in 
local dramatics, and such foolishness. Though he had 
reached a man’s stature, his voice was as high as a girl’s, and 
once in a small play the young people were to put on he was 
to have the female lead. When they gave the show in a 
near-by town, it was decided he should have his picture 
taken in wig and bustle and leg-o’-mutton sleeves. He fell 
into his part so completely that not even his enormous hands 
and feet gave him away, and the lady photographer thought 
he was of her own sex and chattered away as one girl to 
another. 

He kept up the ruse until he realized her confidences were 
such as a boy should not hear, and then he became fright- 
fully embarrassed at the thought of how embarrassed she 
would be if she discovered how he had fooled her. His hat 
was not at the correct angle, according to female canons, 
and as she patted his chignon and adjusted his bangs, 
sweat poured off him. And indeed he was thankful when he 
made his escape without her discovering the fraud. 

In the school of life George was attending he learned much 
about human beings. A man in Minneapolis had been living 
in a two-room shack of straight up-and-down boards, the 
cracks not stripped and lacking whitewash. He had made 
money and had built a fine house up on the hillside above 
the street. The Seymours moved in as the white family 
moved out, their furniture piled on a wagon. At that very 



^‘Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless ChM^ 39 

iuncture somebody in search of a laundress came asking for 
Mrs. Seymour, and the wife pointed contemptuously to the 
tiny place and said, “Down in that shack, neg ecting 

mention that it had just been her own home. 

That summer George left long enough to take a job on a 
farm about four miles from town. It was his first experience 
in driving oxen. He learned to say “gee” and “haw,” and the 
beasts would go obediently as directed. There came a beauti- 
ful day and hot, ideal for an excursion to Rock City— and he 
could always say he ^vas going to haul water. Rock City was 
a strange and fantastic freak of nature, a tremendous pile 
of boulders which seemed to have been dropped out of the 
sky. There sat the stone mountains in the midst of a flat, level 
expanse of prairie. You could drive or plow all around or dig 
underneath and not find anything to account for their ap- 
pearance there. 

As he came up to this extraordinary sight, he ordered the 
oxen to “haw” that he might consider the phenomenon. 
Instead, they made a burst for the water, the wagon rocking 
dangerously, and plunged into the pool, which must have 
been six or seven feet deep. The wagon was nearly under 
water and so was George, up on the fodder, hollering and 
waking the echoes. But his shouting did not budge the oxen. 
They just stood there and drank until they had all they 
wanted. Then they dragged the wagon about, almost up^ 
setting it, George still yelling at them, and started the slow, 
ponderous plod for home. That wound up George’s ox 
driving; they were obviously unpredictable animals. The- 
oretically he said good-by, never to drive again. 

Once back in Minneapolis, George resumed going to 
school and helping Aunt Lucy with her laundry work. She 
was the best shirt ironer and polisher in the county, but 
pretty soon he was allowed to iron dresses for her. It might 
take half a day to finish one properly. She charged four or 
five dollars for it, but nobody fussed at her prices. He loved 
to do them when they were really beautiful fluted ones of 
white organdy. Such pretty things. Sometimes the bodice 



iO 


George Washington Carver 


had little fine tucks and he had to iron down and in between 
them so that when they were opened they would puff. He 
remembered that his first store shirt had been puffed like 
that. Then there were the fancy underskirts, and he thought, 
what a pity that all that exquisite work would not show. He 
tested these when they were finished. He would take one by 
the top and set it on the floor. It had to remain erect, just as 
though there were someone inside it. If it could not stand 
that test the owner, when she came to claim it, might wad 
it up and throw it back in the basket. 

George was now ready to branch out for himself, and 
embarked on his first business transaction. Small as the town 
was it had room for two laundries. He, too, was going to 
have one. He had his eye on a little house a few blocks away 
on Main Street, down in the bottom below the street, one 
room with a kitchen lean-to. He opened negotiations with the 
owner, who made out a bond. To secure title George had to 
pay five dollars a month. “But,” said George, well knowing 
that life was an uncertain business, “suppose I don’t always 
earn enough to pay that? 

“That’s all right. Just pay what you can and then make 


it up later.” 

George took his word for it, moved m, and opened for 
business. Sometimes he had enough money to make the five- 
dollar payments on the date they were due, and sometimes 
not. But the balance was always evened up before long. 

No one had expected Minneapolis to grow as it did. But 
within a year a big hotel was built in the block above George 
on Main Street, which was graded. The grading left George 
even deeper in the hollow, but he did not mind; it was clear 
that the town was going to spread out in that ^recuon, an 
George’s property had risen in value from a hundred and 
fifty dollars to several thousand. 

The ONNTier stopped by one morning to ca g • 

“How do you do. I came to see whether you wanted to sell 

your property.” 

“No, I don’t think I want to.” 



‘■Sometimes I Feel Uke a Motherless Child" M 


«rd like to buy it. Think it over. Til be back tomorrow.” 
The next morning virtually the same conversation 
repeated. The owner came again the third day. Well, w 

have you decided?” 

“I don’t want to sell.” 

“Tell you what I’ll do. I’ll give you another lot I have 
about a quarter mile down the street, and I’ll move this 

house to it.” u u ^ 

George thought he would rather keep the one he had. 

“Do as you please,” said the owner. “I can take this prop- 
erty back and don’t have to give you anything.” 

When George looked his astonishment, the man explained 
further. “You’ve voided your contract, and it’s not worth a 
cent. It says specifically you were to pay me five dollars a 
month, and there were several you skipped.” 

“But,” George protested, “I always made it up the next 

month.” 

*Tt says specifically, five dollars the first of each month. I 
want this lot and I mean to have it; so will you or will you 
not take the other one?” 

There was no recourse. George moved way back to the 
other lot, some distance farther from town, and as he walked 
the extra blocks, carrying his laundry back and forth, he 
cogitated over the sad but valuable lesson he had learned, 
that in business you can’t take people’s word for things. 


George had several colored friends and a host of white 
ones, who thought him an unusually clever and thrifty young 
man. Sometimes people he had encountered on his way were 
interested enough to follow him with letters. These meant 
much to him. He, like the rest of the world, had days of 
waiting for letters that did not come. Some he had been so 
certain of. Then he discovered at least one reason. The town 
had another George Carver, a white man, who was receiving 
mail he was not entitled to. George could fix that little mat- 
ter in a hurry, and did. At random he picked himself a 
middle initial — W. 

Often he was asked, “What does W stand for? ‘Washing- 



^2 


George Washington Carver 


ton’?” George was not at all sure the name as a s^-mbol of 
truthfulness was applicable to him, but since the W did not 
stand for anything, it might as well be “Washington.” 

Not always had George reciprocated in kind with his cor- 
respondents because, for months on end, he had not been 
able to spare a penny for a stamp. This was one of the rea- 
sons why he and Jim were out of touch with each other for 
long periods— besides the fact that Jim was no letter writer, 

and he also had no fixed home, 

George had not heard from Jim for a very long time in- 
deed, when Mrs. Seymour told him she had sad news; she 
had just learned that his big brother was dead. Jim had died 
of smallpox nearly a year before and been buried in Fayette- 


ville, Arkansas. 

The last link with childhood was gone. George would soon 
be a man. He had come a long way, and at last he ap- 
proached in triumph a momentous milestone. He had studied 
assiduously and believed he was ready for college. 

Highland University, which had been founded under the 
sponsorship of the Presbyterian Ghurch, had a coeduca- 
tional enrollment of less than one hundred students. It w^ 
small, but George was not particular about that; he only 
wanted to go to college. He sold his property, which left him 
at least enough to get there, and gave no thought to work- 
ing his way through”; he had always worked Ins way 
through everything. He vsTote the usual letter of apphcation 
and received the usual form, which he filled out, statmg tha 
he had finished such-and-such studies, had such-and-such 
recommendations. These were pronounced satisfactory, md 
the university would “be happy to have him vvath them 
Before the great day of his matriculation George stiU ha 
the summer ahead of him, and he was not one to 
Chester Rarick had been at school tvith him m Mmneapol^ 
had later gone to Kansas City and opened a « 
school George followed, to take courses m shorthand M 
typing. He also bought a typewriter, a towering eontrap^n 
licktog refinement; its entire mechanism was exposed, an 



“Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" 43 

it sounded like a threshing machine. In return George tried 
‘o te-h Chester to play the organ, ^u. Chester wa^ music 
bUnd and could not tell “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean, 

from “Yankee Doodle.” . 

George did not follow his shorthand and typing any 
further, but was able to use them as implements to make 
possible what he wanted to do along other lines. Old men see 
visions and young men dream dreams. He was young an 


dreaming of the future. 

By way of bidding farewell to his childhood, George made 
a nostalgic tour, first of all visiting Jim’s grave in Fayette- 
ville, and then on his way north to Highland stopping at 
Diamond to see the Carvers. He went to the Locust Gro\'c 
Sunday school and church dressed in a light gray checke 
suit, quite slender and as usual so very polite and courteous. 

That evening he spent with some of his old playmates. 
They had no musical instrument save a harmonica, but 
George had brought along his accordion. They all sang most 
of the evening, mingling “Tenting on the Old Camp- 
Ground” and “Just before the Battle, Mother,” with gospel 
hymns and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” George joined in 
the family worship, and the father prayed for his health and 
his happiness in the Christian faith. He concluded by re- 
minding George that he could make money and lose it, but 
when he got an education no one could take it from him. 
George bowed profoundly and thanked them for a delightful 


evening. 

He stopped in Olathe, too, where his friends looked 
with a sort of awe at little George, now grown to a tall young 
man with a great future in store, going off to prepare for it. 

This modest youth, gentle in speech and manner, was very 
proud and burning with eagerness when opening day came 
and he presented himself. The principal was busy and 
looked up sharply from his desk. “Well, what do you 
want?” 


“I am George W. Carver, sir. I’ve come to matriculate.” 
“We take only Indians here, no Negroes.” 



CHAPTER V 


Long Ways from Home’^ 


(jEORGE TURNED and went out the door which 
had opened only to close again behind him. All expectation 
was destroyed. He longed to leave that place forever, as he 
had left behind the place of the Imching. But he had used 
up all his money to get there ; he had none left, and still he 
had to go on living. He therefore followed his accustomed 
rule_pi-occcd from the Known to the nearest related Un- 
known. Temporarily, at least, he had to stay in Highland. 

The story of his rejection at the college spread. A few 
good women who attended church and believed its teachings 
were indignant ; they gave him what jobs they could find to 
do about their homes. Their sympathy was, perforce, silent, 
because he himself never spoke of the wound he had suffered 
to his pride and to his dignity as a human being. He was one 
whose natural reticence automatically commanded privacy. 
He li\ cd alone, more quiet and reserved than ever. 

Mrs. John Beeler became a real champion. Her husband 
had a big fruit farm about a mile south of town, shipping 
apples by the carload and keeping a number of pickers busy. 
George was taken into the house in his familiar role of gen- 
eral helper. 1. .-r, 

Mrs. Beeler was a first -class cook. Nobody else could satisfy 

her husband; he had no teeth and was hard to please about 
his food. Almost immediately she had to go away for a day, 
leaving George and Della Beeler, their daughter, faced with 

the problem. , 

Della was better at playing the piano than she was a 
in^ with a sto\ e. She said. “George, we’ll have to get Father s 



"A Long Ways from Home^ 45 

tor. He probably won’t eat anything we cook, bnt I’ll 

make *e pndding if you’U make the »» ^d . 

So George got a Uttle round pan and baked the bread, 

cameLgtocrhp,andhecntitinpiecesHkape.Ten 

he and Della stood off and waited to see what h . 
would say. He didn’t say anything. He just ate and ate. i 
mouth was so full he couldn’t speak, but he kept motioning 
for more untff he had finished the panful. The I"™® 
people were so enthralled they forgot about the Pu<id.ng. It 
Lked too fast and boded up until it resembled nothing 
except a bread-and-milk poultice. But Mr. Beekr s appeti e 
kaH been satisfied, so it didn’t really matter, and t ey rew 


away the mess. 

His friends urged George to attend the church socials and 
small entertainments in their homes. Wherever he went he 
was a general favorite. He had a pleasant, likable, if some- 
what shy, manner, and he cheerfully played his accordion 
when asked; a person who makes music is welcome in what- 
ever society he finds himself. Though he hid his despondency 
it absorbed all other feeling in him. He had forsaken hope 
as it had forsaken him. 

As soon as he could, George tried to escape the immediate 
pain that pressed upon him night and day. The Government 
had opened the Western plains of Kansas for settlement in 
1878 and the rush there had begun, to be followed by an- 
other flood of immigration in 1886. Young Frank Beeler, 
who was about the same age as George, had gone out to 
Ness County, had established a town consisting almost ex- 
clusively of his store, and called it by his name. To the Great 
American Desert George also fled in 1886 and filed on a 
homestead of a hundred and sbcty acres two miles south of 
Beeler, built a sod house, and put in crops. 

He had to have work while he was waiting for his acres to 
produce so he approached the adjoining Gregg-Steel ey Live- 
stock Ranch. Mrs. Steeley eyed him with keen suspicion and 
kept him standing outside while she talked to him. She ad- 
mitted someone would be needed, because she had merel) 



^6 George Washington Carver 

been visiting her son, the owner, and would soon be leaving. 
She would not be back for some time and the house and her 
son must be looked after. “Have you any recommendations?” 
George pulled out four or five, but her distrust evaporated as 
soon as she had read the first one. “This is recommendation 
enough.” 

Very early the next morning Mrs. Steeley put George on a 
horse and told him he was to go to the post office five miles 
asvay. There were no roads, but he started in the right gen- 
eral direction and prayed that he would arrive somehow. 
The desert prairie ^vas utterly new and strange to George. 
As to trees, they w’ere practically non-existent. The nearest 
were a half-dozen or so poplars thirty miles distant. In that 
great expanse there was not a switch to be seen ^nothing 

higher than a sunflower stalk. 

Suddenly, just a litde in front of him, George saw a great 
lake ^vith a ship on it and people on the ship. He could stand 
still and watch them moving about. As he advmced upon 
this fantastic scene, it kept easing away from him. Always 
it ^vas there, just ahead. Later he learned that this was a 
mirage and might last for hours without changing its appear- 

When George came upon the post ofSce, he had no diffi- 
culty in identifying it, because it was the only building m the 
county that was not made of sod. It was of white magnesia 
limestone, sawed into blocks, and he never did find out its 


A man came out of this structure and when George, by 
wav of making conversation, politely asked whether ^ 
were the post office, he, also by way of making conversauon, 
started to swear. George had learned that when people 
cursed him lor being black, they were laying '“'f “ 
ignorance upon themselves. And this man s i^ess bl^ 
pll^my so tickled him that he nearly tell off his horse laug 
L The man could do no less than laugh with him_ 

Mrs. Steeley's attitude, though it had some of *e s^^ 
surface characteristics, differed in fundamentals. She was 



Long Ways from Home" 47 

proud of her knowledge of how to treat colored people. 
TTiey were bom to be servants, and she knew how to keep 
them in their place. Day after day George had to suffer 
petty indignities in silence. 

The toad beneath the harrow knows 
Exactly where each tooth-point goes, 

The butterfly upon the road 
Preaches contentment to that toad. 

His food was the same as hers and her son s, but he could 
not partake of it at the same time. He was unable to see why 
a difference in skin pigmentation should make this necessary. 
Sometimes he could swallow his bitter bread, and sometimes 
not. 

The leader of the religion George followed preached the 
twice-turned cheek. He had to argue with himself a good 
deal, reminding himself that life forces some people into a 
lonesome valley. He warned himself that when he had hate- 
ful thoughts about Mrs. Steeley, he was ruining his disposi- 
tion and becoming just as hateful as she. He urged that at 
heart she was a good person, but was afflicted with a feeling 
of being inferior, which forced her to dominate somebody 
or other to try to prove she was superior. At great length he 
repeated to himself that he must not carry a chip on a 
thin-skinned shoulder. Weeping was not invited. “Why do 
you care?” he remonstrated. “Don’t waste your time that 
way. If you carry your feelings on your sleeve, some blunt 
fellow is sure to run against them. Keep them on the inside 
and you won’t get hurt.” 

The hurt was already there, but he sought ways of cover- 
ing it. Animals returned affection to anyone who was kind 
to them. Every stray horse looked for George to gather grass 
or hand out sugar to it. The team with which he worked 
during the week became his Sunday playmates. They knew 
each other well. Immediately after breakfast he would 
escape from the house. With sugar in his pocket he would 
start out, calling “Hi-yi-yi” as he went. Jessup, the gray, and 



0 George Washington Carver 

Yacob, the white, were sometimes way off, it might be a 
quarter of a mile. 'When they heard his voice, they raised 
their heads and stared. They stood thus a moment and then 
came tearing, full tilt, as though they were going to trample 
him. 

“You’d better not run over me!” warned George. 

Then, as suddenly, they planted their forefeet and 
stopped. 

“Well, you’d better !” 

If they had come in from the red clover they were likely 
to be slobbery. George would scold, “You ought to have a 
handkerchief.” He would pull out the one he had brought, 
already dampened, and wipe off their big, flat lips. Then he 
would put his arms around Yacob and hug him, laying his 
cheek against the animal’s hard velvet one. He would put 
his hand in Jessup’s mouth, look the creature in the eye, 
and say, “Hold up now. Don’t bite or I’ll smack you. And 
Jessup would let his teeth come softly together. Both would 
poke their heads into his pocket and nose around and scuffle 
and carry on until they had found the present he had 

brought them. n j 

For want of other companionship, George talked to the 

horses by the hour. When Mrs. Steeley sold his pla)mates, 
he could say nothing, but he was full of grief. Id'e 

selling children. In the dark nights, he wondered how toey 
were being treated and if their new owners were kind to 


Pretty soon, Mrs. Steeley went away and Georp took 
charge, doing the housework and cooking during da^ 
time and going to his otvn little house to sleep at mghh m 
order to fulfill the legal requirements of his claim. N 
iast r Steeley and George could be 
to meals together and had a good time talking about pleas 

Mr. Steeley, being eounty commissioner, had J ^ 
degree better than the new pre-emptois though o-’V “ *gh 
^gree; his table was of boards, his dishes of tin, and the 



Long Ways from Home” 49 

baking was done in a Dutch oven. However, the house did 
have glass windows brought from Lamed, the nearest to\m 
where supplies could be purchased, seventy-five miles south- 
east of Beeler, on the Missouri Pacific Railroad. 

Together, Mr. Steeley and George erected barns, poultry 
houses, tool sheds— every sort of building needed on a farm 
—all out of sod. Making houses of dirt was a novel experi- 
ence for George, and he enjoyed experimenting. With a 
plow they cut the buffalo sod four inches thick and twelve 
inches wide, then cut the strips in twenty-four-inch lengths. 
These were laid, alternating with each other as bricks w'ould 
be, until the walls were nine or ten feet high. On the ridge- 
pole and the rafters was laid more sod, then dirt, until it was 
a foot thick, and raked smoothly. 

George became so expert he could show newcomers how 
to trim the walls down with a sharp spade and whitewash 
with lime to stop the dirt sifting in. He had the reputation 
of being the best builder in the county, and his own hut was 
so neat and clean and so decorated wdth flow'ers that no 
other soddy could compare with it. He built a lean-to on 
the south side of the Steeley house, a sort of conservatory, 
and here he kept his flowers and plants blooming luxuriantly 
through the most bitter cold. 

The desert floor was green and beautiful in the spring, 
and its charm held until May. That was what fooled the 
tenderfeet. They w'ould plant their acres in corn and it 
would spring up straight and flourishing, would tassel and 
silk perfecdy. They would point to it with pride and exclaim, 
“Who says corn won’t grow here? I guess you folks just don’t 
know how.” 

Then would come the period of the hot winds. Beginning 
about ten o’clock, scorching, burning blasts, almost as bad as 
the fine dust of later days, would s^veep across the prairie. 
Non-saccharine sorghum could stand the winds after its 
fashion — it could curl up and stay for weeks without water 
— but by nightfall the com would look as though a barrel 
of boiling water had been poured over each stalk. For weeks 



50 


George Washington Carver 


and weeks such weather continued, with nothing to relieve it 
—no shade, no rain. All work had to be done in the early 
morning and late afternoon; if a farmer stayed out during 
midday, he also would be cooked. 

About halhvay between Beeler and George’s house lived a 
settler called Cyclone Munn. He lacked the neighborliness 
which made life bearable on the desert. A httle creek run- 


ning through his land enabled him to grow a small garden, 
so rare and so highly prized in the midst of the heat of the 
plains where almost all food came out of cans. But he kept it 
strictly for his own enjoyment, violating unwritten home- 
steading law by refusing to share his deUcacies. 

Frank Beeler and George fastened covetous eyes on Cy- 
clone Munn’s three rows of green com— eating com. The 
ears began to swell, and the boys kept careful watch. They 
had to judge just right between the time it ripened and the 
time Munn would start to pluck it. A cloudy mght came 
along— perfect for the deed they were to do, and they crept 
into the garden with a gunnysack. They pulled the tender 
ears quickly and quietly until they had enough for a fine 
feast. They were starting back toward Frank’s store when a 
gun banged behind their flying heels— the theft had been 
discovered. However, they dodged about and managed to 


reach the store safely with their loot. 

Out back of the building George lighted a fire m a shal- 
low hole and heated water in an old tin can. The can 
not very large, so he could boil only a few ears at a time. He 
would bring them in to Frank and then go back to prepare 
more Finally he discovered the stock was not mexhaustible. 
As fast as he had carried them in Frank had devoured them, 
and on his last trip, to his great disgust, only three were le 
for him. This was a tribute to his cookmg, but one he coul 


have done without. . • 

The weather was more than a topic of conversa ion 

Ness County. It spelled the difference between financial rum 
and success' If a rare day in June *>™ught nme.een^™- 
dredths of an inch of rainfall, everyone exclaimed. What 



Long Ways ^rom Home’* 5^ 

wonderful weather!” Often also it was a matter of life and 
dcsth* 

Early in George’s first winter, Mr. Steeley had to go to 
Lamed for supplies; he would not be back for about a 
week. Though cold, about thirty below zero, it was a beauti- 
ful bright day, and George was astonished when Mr. btee ey 
cautioned him to get the stock up every night because a 
blizzard might be coming. “And,” he added, “when you get 
the stock in the bam, stay in the house. Don’t go out tor 
anything.” George felt slightly insulted at what to him was 
a warning for children, and said, “I’ve seen blizzards before. 

“No, you haven’t. Where you come from, they have 
storms but not blizzards. Don’t dare to go out ! 

With this final admonition, Mr. Steeley started off in the 

clear, sunshiny morning. 

For fuel the homesteaders used sunflower stalks or cow- 
chips dried by the sun, which almost melted the stove, they 
burned so fiercely. One of George’s tasks was to gather these 
and pile them in a comer of the house to be used as stove- 
wood. 

The second day, after he had tidied the place, George 
took his team and went out for chips. Until two o’clock he 
dug fuel, then he noticed a peculiar strip of bluish cloud 
lying way off on the horizon. It was just a little strip, but so 
queer that it caught his attention. He had never seen any- 
thing just like it. 

He continued gathering chips, glancing occasionally at the 
sky. By three, the strip looked a yard wide, and he decided it 
must be the blizzard. 

Quickly, then, he rounded up the stock, got them into the 
bam, and closed it tightly. This took about an hour. The 
cloud had widened enormously by this time and had begun 
to spit snow a little bit. 

George stood and just looked for about half an hour in a 
idnd of awe at this strange sort of weather. Because, in that 
brief time, the bam, which was less than a hundred yards 
away, had been completely blotted out. He tied a rope to the 



52 George Washington Carver 

bedstead, got the door open, and stood outside, clutching the 
rope. The wind was blowing terrifically. He could hold his 
hand up six inches from his face and not be able to see it. 
He took a few steps from the house, not more than three or 
four, but could see no trace of the building. At last he could 
understand some of the tales he had heard in that country, 
that after a blizzard, when daylight had come and the snow 
had ceased, men were found frozen to death within a few 
feet of shelter. 

Clinging to his life line, George eased himself back inW 
the house. It snowed all night, and he had little sleep. The 
window glass had a crack so fine you could not put a pin 
through it. Nevertheless, the snow was finer still and sifted 
in, keeping him busy scooping up the pile and shoveling it 
out. Next morning it was clear and sunshiny again, with only 
a ho^vling wind and a solid sheet of snow to prove that the 
storm had come and gone. 

When Mr. Steeley finally returned, he remarked, “So you 
thought you’d seen a blizzard ! What did I tell you?” 

George was thoroughly humbled. “You’re right, I only 
thought I had seen a blizzard. 


The houses were about a mile apart, but most of the 
pioneers contrived to be neighborly. Evenings were often 
devoted to music. Mr. Steeley played the violin, Mr. Gregg 
the guitar, Frank B-flat comet, and George created harmony 
among all from his seat at the organ. They made the soddy 
quiver with every song they could think of, from “Buffalo 
Gals” to “Nearer, My God, to Thee.” Frank has wntten, 1 
look back with a great deal of satisfaction to the concerto we 
pulled off in the sod houses and also in my store after busi- 
ness hours. Those were the days of real joy.” 

During the hours of farm inactivity George wandered 
over the countryside, picking up Indian relics and botamcd 
and geological freaks. Once he met a friend of Mr. Stedey s 
and remarked, “Sometime they’re going to find somethmg 
under here. I don’t know what it’ll be, but I’ve been all over 



Long fVays from Home’^ 53 

these hills. There’s a big dome under here, and they’ll find 
something, you mark my words.” Fifty years later the Beeler 
oil pool was tapped, just where he said it would be, and it 
was believed to run under his own quarter of land. 

When the weather kept him indoors, he made lace, copy- 
ing the intricate designs of spider webs, or turned to his 
books. He continued to study and continued to paint be- 
cause he could not help himself. He was always putting paint 
on something— tin or anything he could get hold of. 

He would go any number of miles to see and paint a par- 
ticular scene of which he had heard. If he learned that 
Castle Rock, forty miles from Dighton, where he happened 
to be at the moment, was a view worth looking at, he some- 
how managed to get there and come back with a picture of 
it. He had always been smearing and daubing, but quite 
without direction. 

Now he was given some help in this constant industry. 
Clara C. Duncan, one of the first teachers of Talladega Col- 
lege, which had been one of the first institutions opened for 
the higher education of Negroes, came out to Ness County 
to homestead. For her he made his first drawing under in- 
struction — a pencil sketch of a rabbit. She showed him how 
to correct certain lines and then, still under her direction, he 
made a little painting two inches by three of a fuchsia, and 
followed this with a gaillardia. 

In an unusually solemn moment, even for him, George had 
composed a poem and typed it with a green ribbon on his 
ponderous machine. This he titled “Golden Moments” : 

Whilst I was sitting one day musing 
On Lifers book, each page perusing, 

I heard a whisper softly sighing, 

“Lo! Timers sickle is near thee lying. 

The rich and poor, the great and small. 

By this same sickle all must fall. 

Each moment is golden and none to waste. 

Arouse thee then, to duty haste! 



54 George Washington Carver 

O! sit not down nor idly stand; 

There^s plenty to do on every hand. 

If you cannot prosper in work like some. 

You’ve at least one talent, improve that one” 

It went on like that for forty-two stanzas. These, also, he 
took to Miss Duncan. When she handed the poem back to 
him, it looked as though a cricket or grasshopper had 
dragged it around. She had cut it do^vn to twelve stanzas. He 
looked so crestfallen that she tried to reassure him, “That 
part’s good, what I’ve left.” 

“But,” George protested, “you didn’t leave anything.” 

“But that part is very good.” 

George got as far as the gate with his mangled manuscript 
when she called after his dejected figure, “Come back, 
George.” Again she tried to reassure him. “What you have 
here is very good.” But George was not to be consoled. He 
started away again, and once more she called him back. 

“Now listen, George, and remember what I say. It’s al- 
ways better to be a good prose writer than a poor poet.” 

George believed her so implicitly that he decided then and 
there that he was cured of his poetry-writing affliction and 
was grateful that she had corrected what might have de- 
veloped into a terrible disease. 

One by one the things he could not do well were being 
pruned away, to leave the things he could do supremely weU. 

The desert had its compensation in the way of beauty. At 
night the aurora borealis lit up the sky in fountains of bril- 
liance. George had never seen any color so rich. To him it 
was a marv'el of mar\'els. And at certain times in the early 
morning and late afternoon a mirage might appear. Never 
was anything more wonderful than to stand and look at great 
rivers and open seas, or a woodland stream in which people 

were fishing or canoeing. , 

George could bear most things, but not being deprived 

of the cool richness of foliage and verdure. He took to 
dreaming of flowers he had never even seen. One was ot 



'"A Long Ways from Home’' 55 

orchids growing on an old fence post that had become a 
mossy stump. Another night he dreamed of some exquisite 
iris prismatica. An old log had fallen down in a little pool 
which had collected after a rain. It had made a grassy, damp 
place, and the iris were coming up alongside the log. 

It was undeniable that agriculture which would give any 
sort of return was almost impossible in this arid country 
the land was really fit only for grazing. George labored long 
but unprofitably. He proved upon his claim June 25, 1888, 
but did not live on it the required five years to get it free. 
Instead, he took out a mortgage for three hundred dollars. 

As the greatest contrast he could think of to the burned 
expanse of western Kansas, he had a vague idea in the back 
of his mind that he would open a greenhouse in some likely 
spot. He had been wandering around Kansas for nearly a 
dozen years; now he started northeast for Iowa, taking with 
him various specimens of cactus. He would rather throvf 
away his clothes than those. 

But even a bird with a long neck cannot see the future. 



CHAPTER VI 


"^The Trumpet Sounds Within My SouV* 


In villages along the way, when George had ac- 
cumulated a few dollars, he would set up a laundry busi- 
ness. It didn’t take much capital. He could buy a washboard 
for fifteen cents and a big tin tub for twenty-five cents, or, if 
he lacked the twenty-five cents, he could take a barrel and 
saw it off and make a tub. 

One of the towTis in which he stopped to look about was 
Winterset, Iowa, not far from Des Moines. It was a pleasant 
place but not quite large enough to support a greenhouse. 
However, he could always turn his hand to cooking, so he 
applied for a job at the Schultz' Hotel. 

The proprietor’s son had been the cook, but thought he 
would rather play the violin, and had gone off with a travel- 
ing troupe. Mr. Schultz said George could take his place, 
though he warned, “If my boy comes back, he gets his job 
again.” 

On that condition George took complete charge of the 
kitchen ; he was the chef and did the buying also. Mr. Schultz 
said that he cut the expenses in half, and the guests were 
pleased with the food. 

Early in life George had to learn that when one door 
closes two will open. Occasionally he forgot this, but he soon 
picked up courage. And so many people in the world were 
pleasant and kind and helpful that he did not have to pay 
any attention to those who were not. He had trained himself 
not to hope but to be prepared for disappointment, then if 
a bumptious person returned a pleasant answer, he was 
agreeably surprised. This faith had given him much comfort. 

It never mattered to George what church he attended. 

56 



‘'The Trumpet Sounds Within My Soul” 57 

Everywhere he went he sought the Y.M.C.A. or tlic nearest 
Sunday school or prayer meeting. On a certain Sunday eve- 
ning it happened to be the Methodist Church. He sat in the 
back near the door and listened appreciativ'cly to the clear 
soprano of the choir leader, Mrs. Milholland, his own tenor 
high above the untrained voices of the congregation. 

The next afternoon he was summoned from the kitchen of 
the hotel; Dr. Milholland wished to speak to him. 

“You like to sing, don’t you?” 

George admitted that he did. 

“Well, my wife heard you at church last night. She sent 
me to fetch you around to the house.” 

George went, and Mrs. Milholland’s interest in the young 
man was enormously increased. He had a quick gaiety when- 
ever it was allowed free expression and a warm outgoing 
nature that responded instantly to anyone who gave him a 
welcome. She was an enthusiastic gardener and had her own 
little greenhouse ; she was also an amateur painter who de- 
lighted to splash color on canvas, though she had had no 
training. George was horrified at the state of her palette, stiff 
with dried paint, and could not help exclaiming, “Oh, your 
brushes, your brushes !” Immediately he set about reducing 
her worktable to cleanliness and order. Mrs. Milholland was 
properly grateful for this assistance. 

Obedient to her request, George had gone to the piano 
and sung for her. Now she had a suggestion to make. When 
his day’s work was over he was to come to her house and give 
her instruction in painting, and she would exchange with 
singing lessons. This was, in reality, her own gracious way of 
helping someone in need, by putting it on a reciprocal basis. 
And the really important thing was the exchange of friend- 
ships. 

From that time the Milholland home became one for 
George too — a place where he could be sure of helpful un- 
derstanding. At holiday time he was a part of the family 
festivities, and at Christmas his was the function of dressing 
up and creating merriment as he distributed the eifts. 



^8 George Washington Carver 

Mr. Schultz s son was not so good a violinist as he had 
thought, and presently he was back again to claim his job, 
leaving George without one. 

George could polish collars and cuffs until they shone like 
glass. A laundry where the townspeople could be sure their 
best clothes would not be faded or shrunk oi scorched would 
be a boon to Winterset. He found a tiny cottage on the 
edge of town with a kitchen shed and a parlor cook where he 
opened a small hand laundry, paying a little cash for his 
equipment and securing the rest on credit, vouched for by 
Dr. Milholland. He had never bought on credit before, be- 
cause he could not be sure he would be able to pay for it. 
And having a debt of fifty dollars nearly threw him into 
spasms. He hurried at the double quick in an effort to wipe 
it out, and took on all sorts of outside jobs. 

Every evening he had to report to Mrs. Milholland on 
what he had accomplished during the day-tell everything 
in detail. She would call her two children in to listen, using 
him as an object lesson. Then she would laugh and say, 
“Who ever heard of anyone doing half that . 

George had learned to be punctilious about appointmen^ 
and to fulfill promises, however slight. Any time 'vasn t 
worth shucks, and “sometime” meant no time. Nobody par- 
ticularly cared for the reason if he were there at mne o doc 
^d you were not. An excuse was only one of the ways of sa^ 
ing you didn’t do it. “Just get George to pro^se^d you 
rest easy”— this was the reputation he had built up. 

Once he was out in Mrs. Milholland’s yard beatmg car- 
ped. A neighbor came and asked if he would do the same 

^%hat did George say?” Mrs. Milholland inquired of her. 

“He said he’d come if he could M ti^^ 

“That won’t do. He’s in great demand. Didn t he pro 


♦ 0^5 

iser 


^y^^KCcUandge.apro^seou.cfhim.'n.e. 

you can rest easy— he’ll be there. 



^‘The Trumpet Sounds Within My Soul” 59 

George kept his cottage-laundry immaculate, with his 
njsual fastidious care. Passersby who chanced to glance in 
through the open door could see him seated at his supper 
table, set as precisely as though he were entertaining. 

The little black-handled knife he had found in the corn- 
field was not sturdy enough for his constant toy whittling ; 
for this he used a ten-cent “Buckhom handy Barlow blade, 
best old knife that ever was made.” Often he carved comer 
pieces of picture frames to give away as souvenirs. 

Mrs. J. M. Robbins had chanced to be at the Milhollands’ 
when George had made his first appearance there, and she 
was another who helped hold his hand up. One day she found 
him working on some crochet patterns he was copying 
from a magazine and, seeing her interest in the lace, he had 
brought out a large box of samples of designs he had found 
in various places. She looked at him in amazement and 
asked, “But what are you going to do with all these patterns? 
Why all this work?” 

“I’m going South to my people later on,” he replied, “and 
I expect to use them in teaching in the schools there.” With 
his own particular brand of tenacity, George had never quite 
forgotten his childhood announcement that someday he w'as 
going to have a school where he would teach the things he 
himself could do with his hands. 

The cottage was on the southeast rim of the city with the 
open country almost at hand. To be back in the woods again 
was his chief joy. Long hours he spent in utter content 
rambling with his basket on his arm, picking up flowers and 
leaves to take home — the same sort of litter he used to bring 
in as a child. Only now he could study them, identify and 
classify and arrange them on shelves. For years he had sat in 
libraries finding a little bit of information here and a little 
bit there ; then he had gone to a lecture perhaps and pieced 
it in and found something to connect it up with. 

Mrs. Robbins’ son Fred, in his late teens, was at home 
then. He found George one day strolling in the woods on the 
hill above their house, bearing the inevitable basket, looking 



6o George Washington Carver 

for botanical specimens. He was not carrying the basket with 
his usual ease. He \vas becoming stooped, and someone had 
told him that it would help him to straighten up if he 
walked two miles a day with a stick across his back, held by 
his elbows. This he was faithfully doing, though he was suf- 
fering from a bad case of tonsillitis. 

Fred took George home. Mrs. Robbins had a remedy 
that she used with good results, so she asked him to stay. In 
the Robbins home he remained until he was well. Being a 
busy housewife, she left his entertainment to Fred, who was 
completely fascinated by George’s conversation. 

George had de\’eloped a special method of polishing 
stones. Gladly he showed his rocks, or perhaps a piece of 
asbestos he had dug up, to callers who might be interested 
and explained as much as he himself knew. He had gathered 
quite an amazing store of knowledge which he freely shared 
with any who cared about it, and these were many, because 
he had a happy gift for making the things which were ex- 
citing to hkn seem important also to others. Garden lovers 
were his natural friends, and to all such he was guide and 
philosopher. If anyone expressed the slightest desire for a 
certain fern or bulb it was sure to be forthcoming — George 
spared no effort in securing it. 

For a while he left his books alone; he was too much 
absorbed in acquainting himself with natural objects. But, 
according to Mrs. Milholland, “he very soon started what 
might be called a private school for himself, and the hours 
for each branch were as rigidly enforced as in a school where 
there were many students.” 

Mrs. Milholland was worried for fear George’s talents 
would not reach their full realization without more formal 
guidance. She agitated the subject constantly. “Now, George, 
you’\ e got to go back to school. You ought to be in school. 

And George \\ ould answer, “Yes, but how can I? I ve just 
got a start with my laundry here. I still owe forty dollars on 
the equipment I bought. How can I go back to school? 

But her words kept sounding in his ears, and the idea kept 



''The Trumpet Sounds IVitliin My Soul i 

bothering him until it came to be an almost contum.il voice 
dine-donging in his mind: “You ought to go bad. to s* i"n 
You know YOU ought to be in .school.- Though ii ua - Mut uf 
the question, from George's point of view, all the ^»>iiiiwi n, 
1890 ^Irs. IVlilholland kept insisting. He wa> so trouoh b iliat 
he didn't want to go see hen and she sent the < hildivn to 

find out what was the matter. 

One bright, clear day during the latter part ol juh he \n .r 
polishing a shirt bosom before the open window .ind at ih|- 
same time comforting himself by saying. ' I kiKtw I (an i. 
He brushed this aside and then had a \ ision of that foil) 
dollars. Its place was taken by a new vision. 'T ou d better go 
back to school.'’ “No. I can't go to .school." He went into a 
sort of daze and forgot what he was doing. He abandoned 
the cross-barred polishing iron — -there it sat c^n the shut 
bosom. 

He left the board, walked over to the window, and stood 
looking out for manv silent, thoughtful minutes. At last he 
heard his own voice speaking aloud with sudden dctermina- 
don: ‘AVell, then, I will go back to school!" 

A great burden seemed to roll away. From then on (jeorge 
never had so much work. He could do an\' amount of it. and 
by fall had paid off the forty dollars. He ga\e his paintings 
on tin to Mrs. Milholland and sold his little belongings lor 
enough to pay his tuition. 

As George walked the twenty-five miles toward Sinq^-'on 
College, he fed his hopes on the information contained in the 
catalogtie that the Science Hall had “an elegant ai t room 
immediatelv under the skNlight." 



CHAPTER VII 


That Promised Land Where All Is Peace"" 


September 9, 1890, George arrived in Indian- 
ola, Iowa, “unusually quiet and pleasant, presenting to the 
students as few unworthy attractions and allurements to vice 
as any town in the state.” Simpson College, which had been 
organized under the auspices of the Des Moines Conference 
of the Methodist Episcopal Church, consisted of three build- 
ings, and its faculty numbered seventeen. Its president, the 
Reverend Edmund M. Holmes, was also Professor of Moral 
and Intellectual Philosophy. 

No one is more alone than a young person entermg a new 
school, where everybody seems to be calling greetmgs to 
everybody else. He is certain he is the only stranger and that 
the magic circle of already-existing fellowship can never be 
penetrated. Even academies of higher learning generally 
omit courses in friendliness from their curricula 

George came to school carrying little with him to make 
him welcome. He had only a satchel full of 
social timidity resulting from a constant strugg e wi P 
health, his falsetto voice, which went so strangely ^ 
height, the never-ending need to brace himself against Aat 
first antagonistic gaze of strangers, and the ^ 

tTw^thfr he would be allowed even to work toward his 

^^^plbi^Twcre more familiar to George than meals; he 

But Simpson was an exception. He was not preci y 

the other three hundred students stared at him 
Triefly.’and then ignored him. But at least he was not turned 

away with an unalterable, No. 

6a 



"That Promised Land Where All Is Peace" 63 

For all his varied learning he lacked certain fundamentals 
-mathematics, for one, a subieet which offered no appeal m 
him He therefore enrolled as a special studcn 1 P 
paratory school and registered in arithmetic, grammar, cs- 

says, and etymology. _ u * 

However, he bumped squarely against a heavy o s 
when he applied for permission to register in the art course^ 
This was an unheard-of thing-that a colored person should 
want to study art— and he was looked at in astonishment, t 
seemed a great pity that he should even conside^r spending 
his time in that way; didn’t he realize he should be studying 
something at which he could make a living? No. Definitely, 
tuition would not be accepted for the art course. 

George could appreciate their attitude ; if he had no tal- 
ent, studying art would be a waste of time. But how could 
he find out without trying? He remained stubborn, even in 
spite of the teacher who said she thought the whole thing 
disgraceful. At first he only paused wistfully in the doorway 
of that “elegant art room immediately under the skylight, 
but finally he ventured within and presented his plea directly 
to Miss Etta :M. Eudd, the art director. She was not very 
encouraging, but said he might attend classes for two weeks, 
and at the end of that time she would let him know whether 
he had any talent. With that George had to be content. 

The women at Simpson lived in the Ladies’ Hall, but the 
men boarded in private homes, and President Holmes gave 
George permission to occupy an old abandoned shack not 
too far from the campus. When George mentioned the fact 
that he must have work, Dr. Holmes said further that he 
would urge the other students to give George their laundry. 
With this assurance he entered a little store and bought two 
tubs, a washboard, soap, and starch. These purchases had to 
be arranged on credit because after he had paid his modest 
tuition of twelve dollars he had precisely ten cents left. 

In a meat market on the north side of the square he bought 
five cents’ worth of beef suet. That cut his capital in half. 
He walked on to the grocery on the northwest comer of the 



64 George Washington Carver 

square and spent the remaining five cents for com meal. He 
carried his tubs and board to the shack and waited for cus- 
tomers. They didn’t come and they didn’t come; Dr. Holmes 
had forgotten to make the announcement of the new laun- 
dry in assembly. As day after day went by and the suet and 
meal diminished George grew hungrier and hungrier. 

Mrs. Milholland has since mourned, “Had his Winterset 
friends known of the very slender purse he carried, his first 
days there might have been very different. But because of his 
constant resourcefulness, his friends did not dream but that 
the college laundry work which had been promised him 
ivould amply pro\dde for all his needs.” 

George, however, was more tormented in his mind than by 
his phy sical state. For the first two weeks he was in a sweat- 
box of worr>' as he stmggled to shade a sphere properly; 
would Miss Budd decide he had talent and let him stay on? 

At the end of the second week he awaited the fateful de- 
cision in a perfect agony. But Miss Budd made no comment, 
and he Nvas afraid to ask her, for fear she would say no. 
Finally, his ncr\’es were in such a state that he could bear 
the uncertainty no longer. Timidly he ventured, “Miss Budd, 
you said that if I showed any special talent I could stay in 
the class. May I?” 

“I don’t sec why not. You may start doing landscapes.” 

A day or so later Miss Budd could be seen walking pur- 
posefully along North Howard Street and turning in at num- 
ber 805. She was paying a call on a former pupil, Mrs. 
Arthur W. Liston. Miss Budd stated her object, “I have a 
talented boy who wants to study painting. He has asked to 
saNV my stovewood for the tuition and will you find him a 
room? He is a vcr>' promising young man and we must help 

him.” 

Mrs. Liston started out almost at once for George s tum- 
blcdo^^-n home. But when she rapped on the door and he 
opened it and stood before her, she scarcely knew how to 
approach him. Something in his quiet manner made it dif- 
ficult for her to state her real errand. Then a sudden thoug » 



"That Promised Land Where All Is Peace" 65 


came to her and site found hc«elf asking aid instead of offer- 
ing it Could he do some sketching for her? She wanted to 
pidnt her floiver garden, but her drawing was not good 

cnou£jli. ^\ ould lie help hex ivith it. 

Orcoui-se he agreed immediately, and while they were 
arranging for tlie liest time her eye took in a battered black 
pan half filled is itli corn meal and water and a discarded old 
stove on which ivas a boiler empty and gaping for something 
to be washed in it. She suggested that a room nearer the 
campus might be better for his purpose and that she kneiv of 
one belonging to some friends of hers. It was on the cornci 
of Buxton and Detroit Avenue, just opposite the canning 
factory; she was sure he couldn't miss it, and it would be 
much more suitable for his laundry. 

Mi-s. Liston's next act was to busy herself making his needs 
known to tlie students, and after those grueling early days 
George had all the ivork he could manage. ,\s one of them 
expressed it, “He took on the job of keeping clean a bunch 
of dirtv roughnecks.” And he was eminently successful at it. 

From tliat time also he was seldom at a loss for friends. 
Merchants cheerfully gave him goods boxes, and from these 


he constructed his furniture. Then one aftemoon, when he 
returned from school and opened the door, an astonishing 
siffht greeted him. He wrote Mrs. Milholland, “The people 
are veiy kind to me here and the students arc wonderfully 
good. They took it into their heads I tvas \s orking too hard 
and had not enough home comforts so they clubbed together 
and bought me a whole set of furniture — chairs, table, bed, 
and such things as I needed. I never found out ^\ho did it. 
Of course I had my suspicions and accused a number of boys, 
but they stoutly denied it.” 

That was their biggest tangible contribution, but they also 
paid him the honor of realizing he ^vould not knowingly 
accept material aid, and consequently performed their 
charities in secret, slipping a nameless ticket for a lecture or 
an anon)'mous fifty-cent piece under his door when they 
were sure he would not catch them at it 



66 


George Washington Carver 


On one occasion George fell out with Miss Budd over this 
matter. A musicale was to be given and after the morning 
class she asked him if he were going. 

• “I’m afraid not,” said George. “I can’t afford it.” 

In the afternoon she sent for him. “Here, George,” she 
said, holding out a ticket. “I don’t think I shall be able to go 
tonight. It would be a pity to waste this, so you take it and 

go” 

George thanked her with his customary courtesy, dressed 
in his best, and went to the performance. And there, almost 
the first person he saw, was Miss Budd. After that he was 
more on the alert, so she could never play that trick again. 

Nevertheless, it was through such manifestations of a new 
spirit that George began, as he expressed it, for the first time 
to look upon himself as a human being. Individuals had been 
kind before and had liked him once they knew him. But 
George did not \vant kindness any more than he wanted 
brutality. He wanted to function simply as a human being 
with the privileges and obligations of other human beings. 
Here at last he ^vas in the environment he had so long been 
seeking, and in the entire community he was accepted in full 

fellowship. 

The offer of friendship extended by the other boys was 
not mere kindness on their part but a response to a superior 
quality they recognized instinctively. One who visited him in 
his room found him first stirring the boiling clothes, then 
taking a bite of his dinner, then reading a sentence from a 
textbook. Then again he would stir, bite, and read. After- 
ward the student said, “That man will accomplish some- 
thing in this world, if it’s nothing more than to rub off some 


of the black.” 

His room, as usual, was decorated with stones and flowe 
and cacti he had brought back from the West. Many of the 
boys spent long hours with him while his iron moved cease- 
lessly mid rhythmically over the board, asking ® 

a multitude of subjects and receivmg answers from his m 
mature mind that whetted further their youthful curio y- 



'‘That Promised Land Where All Is Peace 67 

Though George was kept so busy with his laundry and his 
studies that the beam of his oil lamp shone late through the 
night, on Saturday and Sunday afternoons he followed his 
favorite pursuit of walking in the woods and, to those who 
joined him, such afternoons never seemed long enough. 

They were comrades in sports also an ultimate test, e 
would not have made a big-league team, but he loved to 
play baseball and was a welcome addition to the college 
team. He was invited to join the literary societies and help 
furnish the music for school concerts in neighboring towns. 
His general popularity was enhanced by his excellent voice, 
particularly in the student Y.M.C.A. He was one of the four 
leaders at a convention of the organizations of the vicinity, 
a noteworthy group racially, consisting as it did of himself, 
a Chinese, a Japanese, and a white American. 

If George was rated highly by his fellow students, the fac- 
ulty, more conservative but equally laudatory, considered 
him "an excellent student with perseverance, clear insight, 
and amazing patience.” To quote again from Mrs. Milhol- 
land: “George was with us over the Sabbath once when Dr. 
Holmes preached at the Methodist church, and through the 
happy greeting exchanged by president and student one 
could readily recognize the warm friendship existing be- 


tween them.” 

Since George could not often spare time or money to pay 
visits to Winterset, long letters were exchanged between 
himself and Dr. and Mrs. Milholland, the sort of unstudied, 
naive letters a boy writes to his family, who will understand 
his little vanities and rejoice in his success. 

Gardening remained a close bond: “If you are thinking 
of investing much in orchids I think you will regret it as they 
are very hard to raise. However, I will send you the names 
of two of the cheapest; they belong to the butterfly family, 
•:ome very highly recommended, and are said to be of easy 
culture. One is spotted and the other is a beautiful purple — 
very fine.” 

When he made a vacation trio to Des Moines, which “was 



68 George Washington Carver 

muddy, but I had a nice time,” he reported on the health of 
the Milholland relatives there. He kept the flowers as well as 
his friends in mind and inquired after their health also: “I 
hope your orchids are doing well. I saw some of that variety 
in bloom while in Des Moines. They are very pretty indeed. 

I wish you would send me a bulb of that oxalis we got from 
Miss Siders last fall. You can put it in a tiny box and send it 
by mail; I lost mine. I have two double-fringed purple 
petunias (slips) and I think they are both growing. If you 
haven’t any I will send you some. I thank you very much for 
the seeds; part of them are up. I lost all my foliages during 
the holiday vacation by putting them in a cellar that was too 
damp for them. My roses are just beginning to grow again. 

I want to try to root one of each for you if I can.” 

In the spring George wrote: 

You will doubtless be surprised to learn that I am taking both 
vocal and instrumental music [piano] this term. I don’t have to pay 
any direct money for my music, but pay for it in paintings. They are 
very^ kind and take especial pains with me. I can sing up to high D 
and three octaves below. 

My health is very' good with the exception of a bad cold I con- 
tracted yesterday by working in the studio when there was a draft 
blowing through. However, I will take some quinine tonight and 
hope to feel better in the morning. I have trebled the work I had last 
term and it keeps me very' busy. 

I beseech you. Doctor, to wait until I come up, and I will teU you 
the joke I have on you; it is very good indeed, so much better than 

the key. 

The origin of this joke was lost in obscurity. Presumably 
it referred to George’s use of the key in the back of his arith- 
metic book. His marks in his other subjects seldom fell be- 
low ninety, but arithmetic went do^vn and down untU finally 
he received no mark at aU. 

Raillery on the subject remained a bright thread runmng 
back and forth through the correspondence: “Well, Doctor, 
YOU mav expatiate as much as you please on the key ques- 
tion: I hope you enjoy it and will keep right after your tur- 



“That Promised Land Where All Is Peace 69 


kev. You wUl not when I come up again, for my joke on you 
is so good it will monopolize all the time.” It finally le on 
a note to Mrs. Milholland: “You can’t imagine how much 
good the reading of your letter has done me, and tell Doc or 
I enjoy his preaching very much and that I will fimsh ant - 

metic this time, key or no key. ^ 

George was buoyant with enthusiasm when he reporte 
progress in painting, but he was so fearful that his retailing 
of compliments would smack of braggadocio that he at- 
tempted a not-too-artful deception of substituting dashes for 
the first person singular. “I am getting along very well with 
my painting, will begin flowers soon, and then I will send the 
model for yours. My teacher says she is very sorry she did not 
when I came here or she would have let my tal- 
ents run as they liked. She further paid me two very pleasing 
compliments today. She said that in all her contacts with 

people she never met anyone like and that I was going 

to excel in flowers. She further told me she had never seen 
me get them stiff and ungainly, and she is not going to let me 
copy a thing, but make my own designs and paint from na- 
ture. And she is painting a large panel from one of my origi- 
nal drawings.” 

Finally he smothered his pride with: “Well, the subject 
of myself is getting very monotonous and was before I began 
it, but I thought you would like and be interested in knowing 
what they thought of me. Please don’t let anyone see this 
letter but the home folks. My teacher sends her best respects 
to you and also repeated invitations for you to come down.” 

He felt closer to Miss Budd than any of his other instruc- 


tors, because painting was nearest his heart. But even Miss 
Budd was limited in her understanding of him. 

He had been set to doing landscapes, because that was 
the routine, but he didn’t really care about them. And as 
for the marine, which was his assignment in April, he hated 
it. One young woman, the only one from the Art Depart- 
ment, was going to graduate in May, and her finishing work 
was to be of dark red roses. Day after day she struggled with 



70 George Washington Carver 

these, while George looked on enviously; it would be a very 
long time before he would be allowed to paint red roses. 

One day Miss Budd shook her head over them, and said, 
“Alice, Fm afraid you have no talent.” Then she went out 
to dinner, leaving George and Alice alone in the studio, he 
with his detested marine and she with her hopeless botch of 
roses. 

Poor Alice suddenly exclaimed, “I can’t do it !” and threw 
down her brush. 

“Here, let me help,” offered George. 

Alice handed him the brush and he started to work with 
swift and certain strokes. He had never looked on the sea, 
but he had studied roses from babyhood. Both were so intent 
on the picture that they forgot about Miss Budd’s return, 
imtil Alice heard her step in the corridor and cried, “Look 
out !” 

George was startled. He jumped up and backed away 
hastily, knocking over a statue of Ajax, which he loathed. 
It smashed to bits, and in the general confusion Miss Budd 
rjaid severely, “What is the matter with you, George!” 

Without answering, George bent to gather up the pieces, 
and Miss Budd’s glance caught Alice’s picture. She was 
nearly as startled as George had been at her arrival. “Why, 
Alice, that’s the best work I’ve seen you do. I really believe 
you’ve caught the spirit of it at last!” 

George looked up from the shattered plaster he was gath- 
ering together, and he and AUce grinned at each other, 

then burst out laughing. 

Alice explained. “It isn’t mine. George did it.” 

Miss Budd turned to George indignantly. “Why didn’t 
you tell me you could do flowers like this? I’ve a good no- 
tion to give you a Scotch blessing ! Go get another canvas and 

start a still life !” 

George was happier than he had ever been before.^ 

After this experience Miss Budd continued to assi^ dif- 
ferent subjects to different students according to their sev- 
eral abilities but, recognizing George’s special gifts, she al- 



"That Promised Land Where All Is Peace" 7' 

lowed him to go his own way. He could not copy; he w^ 
X poo” at that, but he made his composmons from 

memory. He could bring to life again any flower e a on 

bom bud to full bloom, and started at once on the 
yucca of the plains which he remembered from his deser 

‘‘Xt and Nature being thus inextricably allied in George’s 
make-up posed a pretty question. How could his pred. c - 
dons be best put to use in the matter of earning a hv mg 
when college was over? This P^^lem bothered Miss Budd 
more than it did George. He did not wish to look behind the 

curtain of this happy present. ^ 

Miss Budd was a wise woman brought up in the academi^ 

tradition, her father being J. L. Budd, Professor of Horti- 
culture at the Iowa Agricultural College at Ames. Accord- 
ing to popular report, artists died poor, and she did not see 
much future for George in painting. A man named Sargent 
in the United States Department of Agriculture made wax 
models of fruit as outstanding as the Harvard glass flowers, 
and George thought he might do something like that. But 
Miss Budd did not consider it enough. She wanted his edu- 
cation to rest on solid foundations of practicality. And yet 
to be successful he must do something in which he would be 


content; he must foUow a natural bent. 

George had felt the cruel shocks of being a Negro in a 
world ruled largely by white prejudice. The scars were hid- 
den under a natural optimism, but he had also been en- 
dowed ^nth a strong social conscience. 

This significant note occurred in one of his letters to the 
Milhollands: ‘T am taking better care of myself than I 
have. I realize that God has work for me to do and, conse- 


quently, I must be careful of my health.” And always he 
signed himself, “Your humble servant in God, ’ an attitude 
he did not take hghtly. If the time should come when he 
could help other members of his race toward unfettered 
minds, he would need more than the ability to make pic- 
tures. 



72 (Jeorge W astiington Carver 

Together Miss Budd and George talked things out, and at 
last George decided he would go to Ames to study agricul- 
tural science. It was a hard decision, and when he told Dr. 
Holmes he was going to put a^vay his brushes and paints he 
could do nothing else that day. For once in his life he sat 
idle. 



CHAPTER VUI 


^‘And the Walls Came Tumblin DowjW 


In 1891 the Iowa State College of Agriculture 
and Mechanic Arts was already an eminent institution and, 
under the presidency of ^V. M. Beardshcar, prided itself on 
being excelled in agriculture by no other college. It was the 
seed bed from which sprouted three men who were to rule 
the agricultural destinies of the United States for twcnt\- 
eight years. 

James G. Wilson, director of the Agricultural Station, was 
soon to become Secretary of Agriculture in the cabinets of 
McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, and Taft ; Henry Cantwell 
Wallace was Assistant Professor of Agriculture. later to be- 
come Secretary of Agriculture in the cabinets of Harding 
and Coolidge until he died in 1924. His son. Henry ;\c;ard 
Wallace, was to fill the same post during the first two admin- 
istrations of Franklin D. Roosevelt, though the present Vice- 
President was at that time only a small twig being bent in 
the right direction. 

The school term had already started \\ hcn George arrived 
in May; it extended from ^Vashington's Birthday to Thanks- 
giving. and the long vacation occurred in the ^vintcr when 
farmers ceased from farming. Professor Budd. who had been 
prepared for the coming of his daughter's protege, directed 
him to the dining hall to arrange for his mealtime. There he 
was bluntly told he could not sit at table with white hoys; 
he would have to cat with the field hands in the basement. 

George shrank from yet another blow. ‘This. too. I can 
bear,” he thought, but he did not tvant to be turned a'.eav 
from school again. In all simplicity he wrote his good friend 



74 


George Washington Carver 


Mrs. Liston back in Indianola asking what he should do. 
The response was equally simple. Mrs. Liston put on her 
hat and boarded a train which speedily covered the fifty 
miles to Ames. She spent the day with him strolling about 
the grounds, admiring the buildings and their appointments 
and equipment as though she were walking through cata- 
logue and prospectus. Between statistics she dined in the 
basement with George and the serv'^ants. 

That day marked the end of his isolation, and from then 
on things ^vent very much easier. Miss Budd had asked Dr. 
Louis Hermann Pammell, Professor of Botany, to find some 
work for George, and so North Hall was given a new jamtor. 
Dr. Pammell it was who also solved the problem of sleeping 
quarters; or it may have been Professor Wilson. Such ar- 
rangements were often made behind George s back. The 
necessities ^^’hich occasioned them were unpleasant things 
which it was not necessar)' he should know. Sometimes he 


learned of them years later, sometimes never. 

The college was state supported, and consequently tui- 
tion free, but there were other expenses. Under “How to 
enter” the catalogue stated, “Write to steward enclosing 
three dollars to retain room, and ask for dimensions that you 
may bring proper furniture, carpet, etc.” George had been 
unable to keep up the payments on his Ness County home- 
stead and had deeded it to the man who had financed his 
loan. Consequently, he was propertyless and moneyless once 
more. He had arrived in Ames without e\ en bedding, noth- 
ing, in fact, except faith. Whoever was responsible for find- 
ing him sanctuary, George was installed in Dr. Pammdls 
office downstairs on the first floor of North Hall, and Dr. 


Pammell moved up to the second floor. 

George could not later recall that anyone at Ames w^ 
ever unkind to him. When he was waiting on table m the 
dining hall one of the women students rose and left the roorn 
as she saw his black hand serving her. But her name is no 
engraved in history, and that of George W. Carver ^ 
Eventually other students followed the accustomed pattern 



75 


Mni the Walls Came rumblin’ Down” 
of respect, admiration, and affection. He has said. If one 
eZuc note ever reached my e-;he« 
optimistic ones urging, ‘Yes, you can do u. Go ahead. As 

a result the thing was accomplished.’ 

So George was allowed to continue his geology, bomy, 
ehemistrv. bacteriology, zoology, entomology, and kindred 


The college was a part of the National Guard and subject 
to call by the governor. “To fit young men for positions m 
the state troops as line officers and company mstructors, 
male students in the lower classes were required to become 
members of a college battalion and wear the prescribed urn- 
forms of navy blue with brass buttons during mJitary exer- 
cises. This was slightly ironic from George’s pomt of view, 
since he would never, under any circumstances, be permit- 
ted to be a line officer; nevertheless, with the other students 
he attended lectures on military tactics and, on Wednesday 
and Friday afternoons, maneuvered to bugles in drill and 
parade, which would give him a “dignified carriage of the 
person, gentlemanly deportment, and self-respecting disci- 
pline with habits of neatness and punctuality.” 

He was scared to death of General James Rush Lincoln, 
you’d better not make a mistake or the general would bless 
you out! But then everybody else was terrified also. At first 
George thought the general took a special delight in making 
things disagreeable for George alone; he was wrong in this 
and wrong in that and wrong in the other. The general was 
the meanest man anybody’d ever seen ! But as time went on 
and George had a chance to bring his knowledge of human 
nature to bear on this vexing problem, he found that Gen- 
eral Lincoln was no more strict with him than with anyone 
else. Then the general’s military brusqueness began to amuse 
him. 

Though George could by no means be called a martial 
■ran, he dearly loved uniforms and bands, and he applied 
himself to mastering military science. He rose steadily from 
private to second lieutenant to first lieutenant to captain— 



76 George Washington Carver 

the highest rank among the student officers. And in the 
process General Lincoln became his warm friend. 

Students were encouraged to join one of the seven literary 
clubs, and George was made a member of the Welch Eclec- 
tic Society, the purpose of which was “development in sci- 
ence, literature, and the art of public speaking.” “The art 
of public speaking” offered him a distinct challenge. He was 
already sensitive about his speaking voice, because he had 
so httle control over it. It ^vould stay subdued for a while 
and then break unexpectedly into an embarrassing falsetto. 
The first time this happened in his elocution class, the 
teacher exclaimed, “Of all the ridiculous voices I ever 
heard, none has ever been quite as bad as yours!” 

George took exception to this, but she let him sulk. And 
when he had pulled himself together they went to work on 
it. They %vere so successful that after he had achieved a bal- 
ance he was offered a scholarship in singing at the Boston 
Conservator)" of Music. Since this was not his intended career 
he did not accept, but it did represent a triumph over a han- 
dicap which had long hindered him. 

The literar)- societies did not merely announce meetings 
in bald letters on the bulletin board, but embellished it with 
fine printing and scrolls. When George got through with one 
of these it was a thing of beauty. They also vied with one 
another in adorning the rooms in which they met. The Eclec- 
tic Society naturally outdid all the others, because George 
became the Committee on Decorations, and his arrange- 
ment of ferns and flowers achieved a harmony no one else 

could equal. 

Another thing which made the Eclectic Society outstand- 
ing was the nature of its monthly meetings. usuaUy legal in 
tone, A court was held in which certain offenders were tned 
—criminals who had disobeyed the rules of the table in the 
dining hall. The hall was furnished with a multitude of big 
square tables, each seating eight, two to a side, and students 
chose their own table mates. George no longer had to weave 
his tvav around the pillars serving others, but sat at the most 



^^And the Walls Came Tumblin' Down" 77 

envied of the student tables. It was envied for the merriment 
which emanated from it and spread throughout the room. 

This group made up special games. One was to divide the 
table in quarters, and no one was permitted to pull a dish 
over the line. If caught violating this provision he would 
notify his lawyer. The fun at table was carried on to the club 
meetings. He would be prosecuted and tried and, if he lost, 
his fine would be no dessert for the next day. If he protested 
and carried it to a higher court and lost, the punishment 
was serious — no pie for a week. Often the professors came in 
to hear and applaud the debates, carried on with great 
solemnity and courtroom punctilio. 

Another table rule required everyone to ask for what he 
wanted by its scientific name. If you could not remember 
that black pepper was Piper nigrum, you could sit there 
forever, sans condiment, and nobody would pay any atten- 
tion. Or if you forgot Triticum vulgare, you could call and 
call without result; others would comment on the particular 
richness and tastiness of the bread, but the forgetful one 
would have to eat potatoes. Or if you requested NaCl instead 
of (C12H22O11), no matter how politely, you drank your 
coffee with salt instead of sugar. 

This sort of jollity relieved the monotony of putting food 
into the stomach and at the same time helped to sharpen 
the students’ wits. They must use the terms they were learn- 
ing in chemistry, mineralogy, botany. 

Chemistry George liked, because it permitted him to tear 
things to pieces and find out what they were made of. 

And algebra he liked, because it dealt with unknown quan- 
tities. He was supposed to be studying in the same classroom 
where an algebra class was being held, but he found some- 
thing so fascinating about the letters and signs, he listened 
to that instead of attending to his own work. Finally the 
teacher said, “You aren’t accomplishing anything just sit- 
ting there like that. You might as well join the class.” This 
George was delighted to do, though he was not supposed to 
have algebra until the next year. But the experiment was 



78 


George Washington Carver 


highly successful. The more unkno\vn quantities there were 
the better pleased George was; he could run them down with 
ease and satisfaction. 

Geometry, however, was another matter altogether. Here 
he bogged down completely, after getting off to a good start. 
The day of the first test he was given the easiest proposition 
in the book, and he jumped at it like a bull terrier at a rat. 
He had only that one, and whizzed through it so fast that he 
met some of his classmates coming in as he was going out. 

“Are you through already, George?” 

“Oh, yes, and I made a four,” he announced airily. Papers 
were marked on a scale of four hundred ; three hundred and 


seventy-five was passing. Exit George. 

The next day he took his place in the front row. Professor 
Edgar W. Stanton was round and jolly looking, but George 
didn’t know him very well, or he would have sat in a comer. 
Mr. Stanton started to read the marks. It did not take him 
long to reach the C’s. George straightened up. He wanted 
to hear that four read out loud so everyone could hear. Mr. 
Stanton had a little black book, and he kept turning pages 
and looking up in the air and turning more pages. Finally he 

said, “Mr. Carver, I give you zero.” ^ 

George could not believe he had heard correctly. Zero . 

“Yes, zero.” ^ 

“But, Mr. Stanton ! I had the answer right, I looked it up 


afterward.” ^ 

“Having the correct answer makes no difference. You 

went wrong on your first statement. You can’t arrive at a 

right result from a wrong hypothesis.” 

Though George was outraged at the moment he soon 
reaUzed the correemess of this attitude and its apphcabihty 
to other aspects of life. A path might straighten out at the 
end though it had been crooked on the way; but if you r 
traced your steps it would still be crooked. You could not 

build truth except on a foundation of truth. 

George waded through geometry somehow, but did not 



“And the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down” 79 
aaomp&h very much. He was not what might generally be 

railed enthusiastic over mathematics. i • • i 

He also hated history, all history except the 
history of the United States, in which he took a specml i 
L. Mcient history he got only after his fashion, 
poor. He later claimed he had never been guilty of remem- 
Cing a date. When asked to “describe briefly the signif- 
icance of the reign of Queen Anne,” flo«er °f 

Queen Anne’s lace {Daucus carota) drifted delicate and 

white across his mental \ision. 

And he was just stupid about United States history— e 

wanted to go to the woods instead of study. Once he decided 
not to be the fool of the class any more; he would get at least 
one lesson right. He read a certain aspect of the Washington 
administration and learned it as though he were learning 
poetr)^ Fortunately he was called on, and rattled it off, word 
for word. The instructor stared. George sat down abrupt y. 
It was just as well she did not question him further the next 
dav. for he would not have known anything at all about the 


Washington administration. 

George ivas by no means meek in classes which interested 
him, but argued persistently, usually on the side opposite that 
of his instructor. “I don’t see why I should have to learn ivhy 
a leaf is orbicular lobed or ovate serrate. I want to know 


what the plant is.” 

“But you have to learn that first.” 

“I don’t believe it. Having to learn all that is the reason 
for most students hating botany. Why can t you put plants 
into groups and say that all in that group will have certain 
characteristics? In the begonia family the leaf will always be 


shield shaped.” 

The speculations which began to stir in him then and 
were clarified by having to answer argument in controversy 
became the basis for his later group theory in education. 

As George climbed the long flight of steps that led to the 
big red brick building which housed the agricultural classes, 



8o George Washington Carver 

he was entering a new world, one in which science was 
being applied to farming. The empiric truths of Vergil’s 
time had long been forgotten, and the renascence of agricul- 
ture had started only about fifty years before when Justus 
von Liebig, being a chemist, had begun to apply chemistr)- 
to his studies of vegetable physiology. 

He taught that plants were nourished by carbonated nitro- 
gen which they received from the carbon dioxide and am- 
monia present in the atmosphere, and that their potash, soda, 
lime, sulphur, phosphorus, etc., came from the soil. The 
function of manures, therefore, was to restore to the soil 
those minerals which plants withdrew from it for their 
growth, and he astonished his associates by preparing arti- 
ficial manures. The result in England had been the use of 
nitrate of soda, Peruvian guano, and superphosphate of lime 
in the form of bones dissolved by sulphuric acid. The Agri- 
cultural Society, having as its motto, “Practice with Science," 
had been founded in 1838, and the first experiment station 
in England had been established in 1843, only half a century 
earlier. 

In the United States, Americans began to exert their men- 
tal powers on agriculture with the same energy they had 
applied to industry. Science and agriculture joined hands, 
found themselves compatible, and were now bustling along 
together at a rapid rate. During the decades in which George 
was growing up many aids to agriculture were being per- 
fected: ensilage, as a result of the disastrous rains of 1879; 
inoculation against Texas fever in cattle and cholera in hogs, 
tuberculin tests; an array of farm machiner>'; and new 
methods for testing soils to determine which constituents 
were best suited to the new plants that were being introduced 
from all over the world. 

Science in agriculture was at the spring of its year, and 
George was beginning to understand something of that 
“trinity of relationship existing between the plant, the soil 
upon which it grows, and the human being or animal con- 
sumin? it.” In 1936 he wrote: 



“And the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down” 8i 

Mr. Wallace [H. C.] was one ol my beloved teachere, and whiu 
kis special subject in the A. & M. College was darrymg m all rL 
LL he was a master of soils. Many are the mvaluable le^ns 1 
kamed from him. He set me. thinking along lines practtcally un- 
a. that tune, but wMch are now found to he almos . o. 
quite, as astounding and important as the explodmg of the thMty 
rspomaneous generation by Justus von Uebig more than a hall 


century ago. 

Ecnry C. \VaUace, son of the Reverend Henry Wallace, 
founder of Wallace’s Farmer, who was loved throughout 
Iowa as “Uncle Henry,” inherited from his father the con- 
nction that agriculture is the great mother science and m- 
dustry of the ages; in commerce it is the basis of civiUzation. 
He was expressing an intellectual concept of agriculture 
when he said, “Nations last only as long as their topsoil lasts, 
but he applied himself also to the immediate problem of farm- 
ing, and when he became Secretary of Agriculture in Hard- 
ing’s cabinet, launched the phrase, “Farm ReUef.” 

A certain destiny ^vas shaping George. Though he had 
endured hardships and loneliness, simple and fine people 
such as the Watkinses and the Se)mours had arisen in the 
path of the orphan to act as mother and father to him; he 
had found such guiding friends as the Milhollands and 
Listons; and equally simple and fine teachers \\-ere now 
continuing the process of molding him mentally and 
morally. 

One of the most potent of these ^vas James G. W ilson. The 
cheerful, Scottish-bom Dean of Agriculture and director of 
the experiment station had already taken a turn at politics 
in the State Legislature, and was the first farmer congress- 
man in \Vashington, where he was knoiNTi as Tama Jim. 
Now he ^^‘as exercising his gifts as a truly great teacher. He 
^s•as a father to all the students, both boys and girls; all felt 
free to go to him for ad\dce at any time and wthout any 
hesitation. 

Wilson had been informed of George’s unusual gifts as 
a painter, and wanted to make sure the young man was not 



82 


George Washington Carver 

sacrificing something rare. He asked, “Why not push you: 
studies along this line to some extent?” 

But George replied, “Because I can be of more service to 
my race in agriculture.” This, as Wilson later said, he con> 
sidered a magnificent statement. The friendship which fol 
lowed was founded on mutual respect. 

James WUson and George Carver had a peculiar affinity, 
despite their differences in age, condition, and race. One was 
as deeply religious as the other and beUeved in carrying his 
Bible in his heart and not merely under his arm. Professor 
Wilson was a noteworthy Biblical scholar and George was in 
the process of becoming one. 

Being a state school, Ames had no compulsory religious 
training, but students were strongly urged to attend the Bible 
classes and prayer meetings held under the auspices of the 
Y.M.C.A., or the Sunday-school classes conducted by certain 
members of the faculty. Everyone wanted to be in Professor 
Wilson’s group, which grew so large he was embarrassed for 
the other teachers, who had only a small attendance. Pri- 
vately he asked certain ones, including George, to change 
to some other class but, after two or three weeks, one by 
one they drifted back until they were all together again, 
and Professor Wilson was helpless to break up the com- 


pany. 

The Y.M.C.A. held a summer school at Lake Geneva, 
Wisconsin, and during George’s junior and senior years he 
went as a delegate to represent his college. The daily lessons 
emphasized order, precision, promptness; over and over, 
they reiterated the need for accuracy and system. 

One of the purposes of the Y.M.C.A. was devotional- 
George devoutly believed that the knowledge of God is the 
beginning of wisdom. A second aim was evangelistic-to 
gather other college men into the fold. It was said, half m 
fun that George brought religion to Ames, but there was 
much truth in it. In August of his first year the first meeting 
of the Volunteer Band for Missionary Work had been he , 
with George and two others in attendance. Before he gra U' 



“And the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down’ 83 

ated it had expanded to thirty, tvith three volunteers for 
foS™ service A third purpose was educatioua -Ute Vol- 
untert Band had its own hbrary and issued budleturt-and 
the fourth was practical-its records contmned such 1 e^ 
as “1 bbl. clothing consigned to Pleasant Hdl, Tennes . 

The first time George went to Lake Geneva he had for 
tent-mate an Englishman named Ashby, an exceUent a*lete. 
He was a magnificent swimmer, and George abetted him 
when he slipped down to the lake for his nightly swum a tet 
lights out. The rising bugle at the camp sounded at 6 ; 00 
X M.. retiring at 9:30 p-M- These hours htted in adjmrably 
with George’s long-established custom. His habits had alwa)s 
been in accordance wth Nature’s own, and he kept very 


much the same hours as the sun. 

George modestly thought he could play croquet a httle, but 
Ashby was a star performer and had never been beaten. One 
morning Ashby tvas not up in time for the first seating m the 
dining hall and George waited for him to join the second. 
They sull had some time, and Ashby challenged him to a 
game. George had no inclination to match his feeble play 
against the skill of Ashby, but had to accept the challenge 
when the latter taunted him tsith, “You’re afraid!” 

“.All right then, come on. I’ll play, but I’ll probably beat 


you. 

“That’s the spirit. I’ll give you first shot.” 

So George placed his ball and shot through the first two 
wickets. His double plsy sent him through the side wicket 
and back to the middle. And so on. He just couldn’t miss 
this morning. Every extra shot sent him through another 
wicket and earned him another bonus. He hit the far peg 
and started back. Inwardly he w’as jumping with glee, but 
outw'ardly nonchalant, as though this W’cre the most usual 
thing in the world. He came back the same w^ay, and hit the 
home peg, where Ashby was still standing with his mallet in 
his hand without having made a single shot. George threw 
down his own mallet and said in a superior sort of way, “I 
told YOU I didn’t want to beat you.” 



84 George Washington Carver 

After that he rested on his laurels; he never trusted his 
luck in another game with Ashby. 

Not long aftei^vard honors were evened. George, himself 
unused to water sports, admired his friend’s smooth handling 
of boats. Rowing with Ashby looked so easy, and one evening 
he thought he, too, would take out a ro^vboat. But a sudden 
breeze sprang up, as it does in those waters. The waves rose 
higher and higher until they were jumping like fun. George 
had a mental picture of the hundred-pound muskeUunge 
which had been caught there the day before, and also re- 
membered that someone had let down a flatiron hundreds of 
feet without being able to touch bottom. 

His heart \vas sinking, if the waves \veren’t, when he saw 
Ashby coming after him; nobody had ever looked so good. 
The expert swimg his boat around and hopped into George’s, 
giving him the rope to hold. They started for the shore, rising 
over the waves and do\m as smooth as oil, and meanwhile 
Ashby started to tell George how to do it. But George recog- 
nized his limitations and stated emphatically, “You needn’t 
give me any instruction, because I’m never going to try it 
agam! 

At Iowa Agricultural College the manual of labor was 
divided into two kinds: uninstructive was paid for in money; 
instructive was compensated by instruction given and skill 
acquired. Both of these were made available only to the most 
faithful and meritorious students. However, they were ex- 
pressly warned that they were expected to pay in cash for 
the main part of their expenses while at college; the oppor- 
tunity for earning money was merely to help out a slender 

purse. 

But George’s purse was flat, and an exception had to be 
made for him. The ledgers contain such items as: 

G. W. C. in account with the student department. 

Scrubbing one day 8 hrs. 

U o 



"And the Walls Came Tumblin’ Down” 85 

One of his extracurricular activities was to act as profes- 
sional rubber for the athletic teams. He had to see that 
runners and football players ate the right kind of food and 
not too much of it, that they slept the prescribed number of 
hours and at the right times, that they performed the right 
exercises in sufficient quantity. When the exerdsing was over, 
he really went to work, massaging, thumping, stretching, 
feeling out muscles, and incidentally learning much about the 
anatomy of the human body. With his incredibly long fingers, 
almost twice as long as those of any ordinary man, he gently 
wiped away soreness and fatigue. He could bring healing to 
pulled ligaments, but only as long as there was no serious 
injury. He could not bear to see anyone in pain, and went 
completely chickenhearted at the sight of blood. 

George became known as the man who would not use 
any thin g he had not paid for. If he sent away for a book he 
unwrapped it to verify the fact that it was the one he had 
ordered, and then put it aside until he knew his money order 
had been received. Not until that time did he consider it his, 
nor would he open it and read. 

Professor Wilson was the only person who could break 
down the barrier erected against unearned aid. One day he 
happened to glance at George’s feet. The shabby, broken 
shoes caught his attention. Without a word he reached in 
his pocket and held out two dollars. “Go get a pair of shoes !” 
he ordered sternly. “Not a word out of you ! Go ! Get out !” 

In the face of that sterrmess, George was for once unable 
to talk back. Meekly he took the two dollars and bought him- 
self a pair of shoes. 

He had been so occupied and absorbed during his first 
year that he had neglected the Milhollands, but when he did 
write in August the response was immediate: “Your letter 
from Ames did not come any too soon as we were think- 
ing of sending a tracer after you.” The orchid was growing, 
geraniums were profuse, the expensive begonia had not 
lived. Mrs. Milholland had not done any more painting 
since he left. Dr. Milholland added a postscript: “We are 



86 George Washington Carver 


glad to hear that you are well, and, of course, busy. Satan 
will nev'er get you. You have the key to the situation and 
can lock him out. Will you return to Indianola or remain 
at Ames this fall? We are glad to remember you in our 
prayers and desire that there may be a mutual remem- 
brance.” 

The pull of George’s paints and brushes remained stronger 
in him than he had realized. He was like a mother who 
leaves her baby at a foundling home one night and then goes 
back to fetch it in the morning. His first winter vacation of 
1891-92 he hurried back to Indianola and enrolled as a 
special student in the art course at Simpson. 

With a delicate and discerning eye he translated into an- 
other medium the beauty he saw about him or remembered 
from some past time. It might be crab-apple blossoms, pond 
lilies in a deep blue shade, or a character sketch of the 
Mentzelia ornata of the desert. Miss Budd said she could 
correct his faulty coloring but could teach him nothing about 
form. Sometimes he felt he could not make a mistake; the 
picture grew before his eyes. At other times he wept with 
the pain of creation. 

When his second winter vacation came around, he regw- 
tered again at Simpson, but a doctor stepped in and forbade 
it He had anemia, and his nerves were m a shoeing con - 
tion. He was ordered not to touch his brushes and paints for 
at least a year. He walked the floor in agony, but the decree 


was inexorable. . 

Presently George picked up his courage again and resume 

work which he had always with him. Thanksgivmg Day 
came and passed, and so did Christmas, while he went abou 
his accustomed duties. The day after Christmas he w^ ^- 
nosed to go to Professor Budd’s house m Ames a mJe amy 
from the campus, ,0 clean up alter the disorder of ™rry- 
making. A light snow had fallen ‘‘““S 
sleigh had been sent for him. He put on his old scrabhmg 
clothes and climbed in. Some of the other ^ 

aboard and said they, too, were gomg to town, which . g 



George G.ar\ei 

bo\ 


a \(Uing 


Chaplain (iCitiur \\ . ('aixer dl 
the NaiidiLii ( aiaial at Iowa 


Stale ( '.dllrue 






‘‘And the Walls Came Tumblin* Down'' 87 

thought a little odd. As they jingled along he saw still others 
walking, and thought it stranger still that so many peop e 

should be going to town all at once. 

The snow had stopped and the sun had come out clear 
and bright. The sleigh drew up in front of the biggest store 
in Ames, and one of the boys suggested, “Let’s go in.” 

George had on his oldest rags and objected vigorously, but 
they were too many for him and half pulled him into the 
store and into the men’s clothing department. “Here, what’s 
this!” protested George. “I don’t want to buy anything.” His 
overcoat was worn and covered even worse tatters. 

“Just try this suit on.” 

“There’s no need to fool this way. I’m not buying a suit.” 

“We just want to see how it looks.” 

Still struggling, they got him into a gray suit and added 
the rest of a complete outfit— shoes, hat, gloves, everything. 
George was bewildered and upset, but he was given no time 
to think. Professor Wilson thrust a railroad ticket into his 
hands which read, “Ames to Cedar Rapids, and at seven 
that evening he was on the train, carrying four of his paint- 
ings. 

From December 27 to 30, 1892, an exhibition of Iowa 
artists was being held in Cedar Rapids in connection with 
a meeting of the Iowa Teachers’ Association. Professor 
Wilson and George’s other friends were determined that his 
work should appear, and had chosen this method of circum- 
venting his inevitable protestations and insuring that he got 
there. G. W. Carver was duly listed in the catalogue as the 
author of No. 99, Yucca; No. 25, Roses; No. 43, Peonies; 
No. 186, Vase of Flowers. 

When George presented himself and his canvases, char- 
acteristically and with his usual adaptability, he offered to 
help install the exhibits — an offer which was gratefully ac- 
cepted and which contributed to the general excellent show- 
ing. 

His paintings at once brought him into state fame, which 
was confirmed when the judges selected all four to be shown 



B 8 


George Washington Carver 

at the W Grid’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago the follow- 
ing summer, but he could manage only one, and chose the 
Yucca gloriosa. He carried it himself to the White City, 
where it received an honorable mention. 

Incidentally, he saw the World’s Fair. The first time he 
went, he thought he knew all about it beforehand, and made 
a tour, rushing through one building after the other. But the 
second time he had learned how to get the most out of a fair. 
He devoted himself to only three buildings: Art, Horticul- 
ture, and Science — in that order. 

Though George was not allowed to paint very much, he 
turned this insatiable desire of his into a field in which he 
could exercise his art, and produced mycological drawings 
that were exquisite in their perfection of detail and color. 

And as a plant breeder, an explorer into the infinite, he 
could create fresh color and form in the living plants he 
loved so well. As a child he had planted his flowers close to- 
gether, hoping they would mix. Then when he grew older 
he found out that this was the function of bees, but it was a 
haphazard method — so many specimens had to be discarded. 
Now he had learned how to crossbreed by hand to produce 
the desired result. He had performed most of his experimen- 
tation on bulbous plants, because during his migratory life 
they were so much easier to carry' from place to place than 
root plants. The subject of his thesis for a bachelor’s degree 
was “Plants as Modified by Man,” and he selected the 

amaryllis as his special object of study. 

The graduating class of ’94 was called The Gourds, an 
its motto, “Ever climbing,” was mysteriously printed on the 
top of the powerhouse smokestack one dark mght. George, 
who was affectionately nicknamed “Doctor,” because he 
“knew everything,” was elected poet laureate. He had, per- 
force, to essay writing verse again and composed an e 

the Gourds.” . n 

He had been offered a job after graduation by a florist. 

This he gently declined. “I did not earn my education in 
order to arrange flowers for the dead. 



'‘And the Walls Came Tumblin Down 89 

After four years at Ames he was ready for his and 

Mr^ Liston was on hand for his triumph as she had been for 

his difficult initiation. He met her at the 
and proud in his gray suit with the inevitable flower m his 
buttonhole, which he never was without, then or thereaf cr. 
She, for her part, was loaded with red carnations, the class 
flower, tributes to George from members of the art class at 
Simpson. He read the “Ode to the Gourds” and took Mrs. 
Liston to dinner in the student dining hall, where they sat 
at the professors’ table — a place he had legitimately came . 
He was the first colored graduate of the college and the only 
member of his race ever to be on the faculty staff. 

School honors seem important at the time to most young 
men and women, and to George they might have appeared 
doubly so. But they had come easily, even unsought, and he 
knew very well that their value depreciated when schooldays 
were over; that such applause was heard no further than the 
college doors. However, he was not leaving those friendly 
doors just yet. 

His correspondence with the Milhollands had continued 
faithfully, and in October 1894, a month before graduation, 
he wrote: 


The many good things the Lord has entrusted to my care are too 
numerous to mention here. The last, but not the least, of these is my 
appointment as Assistant Station Botanist. I intend to take a post- 
graduate course here, which will require two years — one year of 
residence work and one of non-residence, I hope to do my non- 
residence work next year and in the meantime take a course at the 
Chicago Academy of Arts. 


The conflict between George’s longing to devote himself 
entirely to painting and his equally strong desire to be of 
.service seemed as though it would never end. 



CHAPTER IX 


‘‘On My Way to the Kingdom Land!^ 


Several applicants had offered themselves for 
the opening on the faculty as assistant botanist in the experi- 
ment station, but George Carver’s qualifications were far 
superior to those of anyone else. Dr, Pammell called him one 
of his most brilliant students, the best collector, and the 
sharpest observer he had ever known, and in 1899, only five 
years later. Professor Budd in a published article in the Iowa 
State Register quoted G. W. Carver as his authority. 

CaiA'er r\ as placed in charge of the greenhouse, where he 
performed various plant gymnastics in grafting, inarching, 
and crossbreeding. In accordance with the ne^v agricultural 
developments in the country. Professor Budd’s department 
was engaged in improving orchards 5 some fruit trees had 
been imported and were being added to the native stock. 
Carver’s tvork with amaryllis had proved him a master at 
crossing, and he was employed by the Horticultural Sodety 
of Iowa during vacation in crossing and hybridizing fruits— 


apples, pears, plums. 

During his two years on the faculty at Ames as assistant to 
Dr. Pammell, he devoted special attention to bactenal 
laboratory work in systematic botany. Dr. Pammell was an 
eminent botanist, and his monumental Manual of Poisonous 
Plants was an authority, not merely among botanists, but in 
veterinary science. Carver collaborated with him on two 
publications: Treatment of Currants and Cherries to Pre- 
vent Spot Diseases, Iowa Agricultural Experiment Station- 
Bulletin 30, 1895; and Fungus Diseases of Plants at Ames, 

Iowa, 1895, Iowa Academy of Science. 

He fully reciprocated the esteem in which he was held by 



“On My Way to the Kingdom Land” 9 ^ 

his professor. His Progressive and Correlative Nature Study, 
published in 1902, bears this inscription: “To Dr. L. H. 
Pammell, a distinguished botanist and great teacher; my 
constant adviser, not only as a student, but throughout the 
many years which followed. It is with grateful memory that 
I dedicate this book.” 

Under Dr. Pammell’s instruction. Carver had started his 
mycological collection very early, a collection which grew to 
some twenty thousand specimens. And he had rapidly be- 
come an outstanding mycologist in his own right. When a 
new fungus disease is discovered, not even the mycologist 
can tell what it is going to do. He must get the range of 
occurrence and the extent of the damage. The lower plants 
(fungi) known as molds, mildews, toadstools, frogstools, 
mushrooms of simple structure and organization, reproduce 
by means of microscopic spores instead of seeds. They con- 
tain no chlorophyll and are therefore unable to live on inor- 
ganic matter like other plants, but must draw food from 
decaying matter or living organic tissue, and are likely to 
take charge of cultivated plants. Some do not spread, but 
others must be watched with a good deal of care. 

When a very little boy George had been called the Plant 
Doctor, but now he was earning the title scientifically. As 
he tramped the wide distances of the nine-hundred-acre 
campus, up and down Squaw Creek and Skunk River, his 
eye, sharp as a bird’s, detected plants which were sick, and 
he brought back the fungi which had attacked them. If he 
were intent on one kind he might see many others and collect 
them, but he put them aside until the time came to deal with 
them; he must keep his mind focused on one thing. 

He was still possessed, as he had been when a child, by 
that unappeasable question, “I wonder why?” He liked to 
quote Tennyson’s lines: 


Hold you here, root and all, in my hand, 
Little flower — but if I could understand 



92 


George Washington Carver 

What you are, root and all, and all in all, 
I should know what God and man is. 


Over and above Carver’s scientific knowledge was his intui- 
tive affinity tvith Nature. Animals, plants, insects, even 
minerals -were his friends. Once he wrote, “Never a day 
passes but that I do myself the honor to commune with some 
of their varied forms.” 


Not only Carver’s contemporaries, but also the very young 
found pleasure and stimulation in his society. The six-foot 
man and a six-year-old boy, Henry A. Wallace, walked in 
the woods together. The Vice-President has since said: “Be- 
cause of his friendship with my father and perhaps his inter- 
est in children George Carver often took me with him on 


botany expeditions, and it was he who first introduced me to 
the mysteries of plant fertilization. He seemed to have a great 
s>Tnpathy with me. Though I was a small boy he gave me 
credit for being able to identify different species of grasses. 
He made so much of it I am certain now that, out of the 
goodness of his heart, he greatly exaggerated my botanical 
ability. But his faith aroused my natural interest and kindled 
an ambition to excel in this field; his praise did me good, as 
praise of a child often does. There is no doubt it is the gift of 
the true teacher to see possibilities before the pupils them- 
selves are conscious that they exist. Later on I was to have an 
intimate acquaintance with plants myself, because I spent a 
good many years breeding corn. Perhaps that was partly 
because this scientist, who belonged to another race, had 
deepened mv appreciation of plants in a way I could never 
forect Certainlv because of his faith I became interested in 
things that today give me a distinct pleasure. I feel I must 

pav him this debt of gratitude.” , vw 

A lasting memorial to this companionship is the Wallace 
h^ brid com, ^^•hich covers many acres of Midwestern farms, 

standing tall and unbent by storms. 

Can cr was spending more and more tune w> h Jam« 
Wilson. He was welcomed at the Wilson farm . 



Fraer. 


“On My Way to the Kingdom Land” 93 

Iowa and felt at home in the midst of this musical fainily. 
And more and more he traveled with the professor on short 
lecture trips; Wilson would talk on agriculture, an 
on mycology, horticulture, or floriculture, describing the dif- 
ferences between window plants, hothouse plants, and store 
plants, emphasizing the fact that a plant could no more 
flourish in conditions unnatural to it than a polar bear could 
thrive in the tropics; you could no more put a tree or a plant 
in a place where it did not belong and expect it to develop 
naturally than you could put an Eskimo at the Equator or a 
Hottentot at the North Pole. 

Though he was not a great orator he spoke clearly and 
directly and in a friendly manner about matters close to his 
heart, whether his subject was flowers or the Psalms. Some- 
times he went alone, to little places in Iowa— Mediapolis, 
Nevada, Cambridge, West Liberty— and wherever he had 
been, he was affectionately remembered. 

In West Liberty the Flori-Horticulture Society held an 
exhibition, and the West Liberty Index for August 20, 1896, 
stated: “Had that worthy Ames gentleman. Professor Car- 
ver, who would have doubtless known the names of all the 
plants and who must be credited with the organization of 
the society, been here, the display must certainly have de- 
lighted him” 

Carver had been unable to attend because he was busy 
packing and finishing up his work at the college. 

He had altered his plan to attend the Chicago Art Insti- 
tute, skipped his non-residence year, and applied himself to 
his master’s thesis. He was to receive his degree in November 
1896. Though his desire to paint was not uprooted, it was 
taking second place; regardless of his gifts, the pull of obli- 
gation was becoming stronger and stronger. 

On one occasion at a Y.M.C.A. meeting Carver had 
spoken of the needs of the colored people in his own land, 
but he had been a young chap then and knew little of \vhat 
he was talking about; his was the brashness of ignorance, 
Never in his life did he discuss the race question publicly 



94 George Washington Carver 

He was a thinker, not a fighter — a laboratory scientist, not 
a sociologist, and he realized that if once he should become 
involved in controversy he would have no time left for his 
work. Having accepted in silence the personal injustices that 
had come his way, he had succeeded so well in covering them 
over that the details were blurred and most were eventually 
lost to memory'. He knew he could not even dwell upon them 
in his mind without losing energy which he believed might 
be put to a better use. And for him this better use signified a 
wordless service which would speak loud in accomplishment. 
The public plea for his race he would leave to others who 
were more fitted for the duty. 

A man named Booker T. Washington had revolutionary 
ideas as to the sort of education which would best fit the 
necessities of Southern Negroes and for fourteen years had 
been vigorously applying them at a little town called Tuske- 
gee in Alabama. Then on September i8, 1895, he had made 
a speech at the Atlanta Cotton States and International 
Exposition which had echoed across the country', “a platform 
upon which blacks and whites could stand with full justice 
to each other.’’ This was the first time a Negro had been 
allowed to lift his voice in the South, and the audience was 
in an uproar, applauding and weeping, when he described 
his race as “the most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and un- 
resentful people that the world has seen,” and then held up 
his own hand and said, “In all things that are purely socid 
we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in 

all things essential to human progress. 

\Vashington made a parable of the historical legend of the 
lost ship ; “A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a 
friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was 
seen a signal. ‘Water, water; we die of thirst!’ The answer 
from the friendly vessel at once came back, ‘Cast down your 
bucket where you are.’ A second time the signal, ‘Water, 
water; send us water!’ ran up from the distressed vessel, md 
was answered, ‘Cast dovv'n your bucket where you are. The 
caotain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the mjuncUon, 



"On My Way to the Kingdom Land'’ 95 

cast do\vn his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling 
water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of 
my race . . . who underestimate the importance of cultivatmg 
friendly relations vsdth the Southern white man, who is his 
next-door neighbor, I ^^-ould say, ‘Cast do^m your bucket 
where you are’ — cast it doim in making friends in e\'ery 
manly way of the people of all races by whom ^ve are sur- 
rounded. Cast it down in agriculture, mechamcs, m com- 
merce, in domestic ser\ice, and in the professions. 

George W. Carver was ready to cast down his bucket. 

He was, of course, the best-trained Negro agriculturist in 
the country and, as a result of the bulletins issued by the 
station, was becoming widely known. In November 1895 a 
request came to President Beardshear from \\ estside, hlissis- 
sippi, for Carver to join the faculty of the land-grant college 
of Mississippi — Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical College. 
President Beardshear \vas cautious in his reply; “Air. Carver 
has admirable tact and is universally liked b) faculty and 
students. He is a thorough Christian gentleman and gives 
good promise of marked scientific usefulness in his chosen 
w'ork. We wnuld not care to have him change unless he can 
better himself.” He inquired as to the salaiT offered and the 
nature of the ^^•ork. “Please send me a copy of your latest 
catalogue and courses of study. In case your position proves 
desirable w’e can give him ironclad recommendations.” 

A second request was sent Caiwer direct, asking him to 
accept the Chair of Agriculture. He wanted to be sure that, 
if he agreed, he ^vould be taking the right step, and he talked 
it o\'er with his faculty advisers. 

Some wTOte unqualified recommendations. General Lin- 
coln said that Mr. G. \V. Car\-er, a “most gentlemanly and 
efficient cadet, rising to the rank of captain through merit 
alone,” enjoyed the respect of all ^vho knew* him and there 
w'ere none but wished him well. Dr. Pammell wrote : “I have 
great confidence in Air. CaiA’ers ability. This has been 
backed up by having him reappointed assistant with an in- 
crease in salary. I believe Air. Carv'er has a great future 



96 George Washington Carver 

before him.” And Professor Budd: “Indeed we do not like to 
lose him. He will get next year as good a salary as you offer.” 

But the thought of parting came hardest to Professor 
Wilson, and he devoted many pages to his reply: 

I do not want to lose Mr. Carver from our station staff here. . . . 
I have been more intimate with Mr. Carver than with any other 
student on the campus. I have to some extent befriended him when 
it was in my power to do so, and he has responded by doing a great 
deal of work among the students that has pleased me greatly, . . 

In cross-fertilization . . . and the propagation of plants, he is bv 
all means the ablest student we have here. Except for the respect 
owe the professors, I would say he is fully abreast of them and ex- 
ceeds in special lines in which he has a taste. 


Carver had attended Wilson’s class in heredity 

and I assure you I would not hesitate to have him teach our 
classes here. ... He understands the anatomy and physiology of 
animals thoroughly, and the effect of different feeds. . . . With 
regard to plants he has a passion for them, in the conservatory, the 
garden, the orchard, and the farm. In that direction we have nobody 
who is his equal. I had designed that he should experiment along 
the line of developing our native plants, cross-fertilizing, and intro- 
ducing such new plants from over the world as would be beneficial 

to farmers and orchardists of Iowa. ... 

We have nobody to take his place and I would never part with a 

student with so much regret as George Carver, , . . I think he feels 

at home among us, but you call for him to go down there and teach 
agriculture and horticulture and the sciences relating to these thmgs 
to the people of his own race, a people I have been taught to re- 
spect and for whose religious education we consider it a privUege to 
cLtribute. I cannot object to his going. It will be difficult for me to 
find another student who will quietly do the religious work that Mr 
Carver has been doing, who wiU bring the same gracious mfluen^ 

,0 bear on the boys coming here from the ^ 

they may be started in the right direcuon. It mU be difhcnlt. m faet 

impossible, to fill his place. u r » cnoken in 

Tbrse are warm words, snch as I have nev« 
favor of any young man leaving our institution, but they 



"On My lyay to the Kingdom Land” 97 

served. If you should conclude to take him from us I will recognize 
the finger of Providence and submit. 

With respect, 

James G. Wilson. 

The separation of these friends was to come, but not pre- 
cisely as either had anticipated. 

Carver’s election to the chair at Alcorn was deferred until 
spring, and meanwhile another offer of service came to him, 
one which allowed of no hesitation in acceptance. 

Booker T. Washington believed with Wilson that the 
farmer must be taught to think along the lines in which 
science had shed light upon his art. Agriculture being the 
root, trunk, branch, and twig of the Southern economic 
system, it was essential that just the right man be in charge 
of putting the Agricultural Department at the Tuskegee 
Normal and Industrial Institute on a scientific basis. On 
April I, 1896, he asked Carver to join the faculty in that 
capacity, at a salary of fifteen hundred dollars. 

In reply Carver wrote : 

Of course it has always been the one great ideal of my life to be 
of the greatest good to the greatest number of “my people” possible, 
and to this end I have been preparing myself for these many years; 
feeling as I do that this line of education is the key to unlock the 
golden door of freedom to our people. 

In June, when Washington received an honorary M.A. 
from Harvard, he made another memorable speech: “Dur- 
ing the next half century and more, my race must continue 
passing through the severe American crucible. We are to be 
tested in our patience, our forbearance, our perseverance, 
our power to endure wrong, to withstand temptations, to 
economize, to acquire and use skill ; in our ability to compete, 
to succeed in commerce, to disregard the superficial for the 
real, the appearance for the substance, to be great and yet 
small, learned and yet simple, high and yet the servant of all.” 

These were sentiments in which Carver wholeheartedly 
concurred; it was clear that these two men would be able to 



9 ^ George Washington Carver 

work together harmoniously toward an identical consumma- 
tion. Throughout the summer they exchanged letters and 
made plans. By arrangement, Professors Wilson and Wallace 
met ^Vashington to add their verbal endorsement of their 
brilliant young friend. 

Mean\vhile he was packing everything except his myco- 
logical collection, which he was leaving to his alma mater — 
his library, his clothes, his scrapbooks, his amaryllis bulbs, 
his biological sketches, and his paintings. He had not utterly 
relinquished his dream ; he still had a faint hope that at the 
end of two years circumstances would permit him to go to 
France to paint. 

The school Aveekly, the lAC Student, reported a banquet 
of the Agricultural Society in September. As usual the com- 
mittee asked I\lr. Car\^er to take charge of decorating Pro- 
fessor Wilson’s recitation room in Agriculture Hall, “and 
with the aid of some \ ines and autumn leaves he transformed 
the room beyond recognition.” The quartet, including Mr. 
Carver, “filled the air with melodious sounds,” and after the 
\ iolin solo Mr. Carver follo^ved “with a reading in which 
\N as depicted the simple beauty of an evening’s scene on a 
farm. The calls of the shepherd boy and the caressing lan- 
guage of the milkmaids were imitated in a masterly manner.” 

On October 5, 1896, the town paper, the Ames Intelli- 
gencer, reported that ]Mr. Carver had left for Alabama. On 
his departure he had been presented with a superb micro- 
scope, complete with case, the gift of faculty and friends, as 
he goes forth strong in the assurance that the best wishes of 
all follow him. We know of no one who failed to be won to 
friendship by his genial disposition, and we are not guilty of 
meaningless praise when we wish him Godspeed. 



CHAPTER X 


‘'Let My People Go'' 


It was an early June afternoon of i88i, just after 
dinner, and somnolence hung over the little Alabama town 
of Tuskegee. Booker T. Washington, a young man of twenty- 
three or thereabouts with a flowing mustache and with a neat 
and efficient mind made evident by his dress and maimer, 
strode briskly up the mile-long hill from the station, his intel- 
ligent eyes noting every detail along the road. Small puffs of 
red dust rose and settled again languidly from the slow-hfting 
hoofs of an ox on its way round to the hitching racks back of 
the stores that lined the square. In the center of the fence- 
enclosed space stood the Macon County courthouse. A few 
Negroes lounged in the shade of the wide, curving stairs that 
led up to the second floor, or stretched themselves out on the 
drying grass beneath the quiet elms and magnolias. Across 
from the stately entrance on the north side of the square 
stood the general merchandise store of Campbell and 
Wright, in one comer of which was conducted the banking 
business of the county. 

The young man whose purposeful air contrasted so 
strangely with the hot torpor that overlay the town entered, 
asked for Mr. George Campbell, and was directed to the 
back room and the gentleman with the long white beard. 
Neither Mr. Campbell nor his partner and brother-in-law. 
Captain W. H. Wright, had been expecting Booker Wash- 
ington so soon. They were, however, pleased with his appear- 
ance and sent him across to the west side of the square to the 
tin and harness shop of Lewis Adams, who would explain to 
him all about the new school in which he was to teach. 



100 


George Washington Carver 

This was the year i88i, when George Carver was strug- 
gling through the seventh grade in Minneapolis, Kansas, 
completely unaware that a daring experiment, though its 
full magnitude %vas not comprehended at the time, was 
about to take place in the heart of the black belt. Booker T. 
Washington, ^vho himself had been climbing up from slavery 
for only nineteen years, was to try to emancipate his race 
from the adjuncts of slavery and instruct them how to live 
like free men. 

In Macon County, as elsewhere in the deep South, were 
countless unschooled men and women, recently slaves, whom 
Emancipation had thro%vn on their own with no knowledge 
of anything except taking orders and laboring in the cotton 
fields. These children of the scarred back and branded breast 
suddenly had no food, no clothes, no homes, and had never 
been taught to provide such things for the morrow; they had 
never owned anything which had to be protected. Families 
had been torn apart by sales, marriage had been forbidden, 
and their women had been subject to the command of white 
masters j hence they were as lacking in morals as in stability. 
Their religion preached submission, but even the comfort of 
the hope of a better land hereafter they could enjoy only at 
night in the woods by “stealing away to Jesus.” Thus spir- 
itually crippled by white men, they were entering upon 
merciless competition ^v'ith those same men, who were set in 
the determination to keep them without lands, without votes, 
without schools. 

Laws against the education of slaves had been severe; 
some, who had secured a little surreptitiously, knew that real 
emancipation would come only when they could step out of 
the dark prison of ignorance into the bright light of know 
edf^e. They tried to rush four million strong into that light, 
and it blinded some of them. Their numbers frightened 
white men, and the ex-slaves were whipped back into t e 
dunf^eon. But the impulse still survived and woula not let 
them rest. Scattered individuals and groups continued to 
crecD out unobtrusively and fearfully from time to time, ac- 



101 


‘‘Let My People Go” 

customing themselves gradually to a brilliance with which 
the eves of any white child were familiar from birth. 

The Negro Reconstruction Government of Alabama was 
resolved that its people should have education as a ^PP‘"S 
stone to power. As one of its first provisions it mha'rd a tre 
Dublic-school system, from which the whites benefited also. 
Cthriater Constitution of ’ 75 . under white direction, 
ordered separate schools for the two races, thus curtailing 
Nemo opportunities for higher education. Nevertheless, c 
voiig wem eager and bounding with hope-all things would 
be possible to them once they had mastered the secret mean- 
ing of words and figures. The old prayed that they might 
leL to read the Bible before they died. In the httle strug- 
gling schools which were springing up everywhere during 
Sie ’70s young colored men and women were trying to 
teach, even though they themselves barely knew the rudi- 
ments of the three /?’s. 

Most Southerners agreed that a little black boy was as 
bright as a little white boy up to a certain age. The argument 
developed from there on along the lines of medieval scholar- 
ship, such as the question of how many angels could dance 
on the point of a needle. With Southern savants it was the 
age at which the black boy stopped developing; was it 
twelve, thirteen, or fifteen? At least they agreed that after 
one or the other of these ages he could not progress, but 
could merely copy what he saw about him ; it was therefore 
manifestly useless to try to educate him. The corollary to 
this dictum was slightly inconsistent — if he were educated he 
would be dangerous; he would think too much. He would 
try to step out of his place. “He was born for our use and our 
abuse, and in that place in which we have placed him he 
must and shall remain.” 

A few discerning white men of Tuskegee held a minority 
opinion. They believed that danger lay in ignorance and 
that safety lay in developing intelligence and thus increasing 
usefulness. Their more enlightened attitude was understand- 
able; Tuskegee, founded in 1832 and named for a Creelv 



102 George Washington Carver 

chief, was a town of two thousand, half of whom were 
colored. Though it lay on the highway between Montgomery, 
forty miles to the west, which was for a brief time the Con- 
federate capital, and Atlanta, one hundred and forty miles 
to the east, it had been spared the agonies of the latter. 
Many of its young men had gone to war, and the wealth of 
all had been reduced. The four miles of track of the little 
spur that connected the town with the main railroad at 
Chehaw had been torn up to make bullets. But E. T. Varner 
& Co. had laid the tracks again, and the hea\7 bales of cotton 
were now rolling on their way. Though its mansions were in 
need of paint they were unscarred by fire and still stood 
stiffly erect, wrapped in the dignity of many pillars. Though 
Union soldiers had passed that way, no special war hatreds 
had camped there, to leave a rubbish pile of bitterness. 

Some owners had been indulgent in the matter of letting 
slaves learn to read if they wanted to. Some had found that 
the Negro could become an artisan, and certain youngsters 
who showed aptitude had been taught the skilled work of 
the plantation - large planters had shops in which the various 
necessary crafts of homemaking and farming were practiced 
— making the cooking utensils for the kitchen and dairy, con- 
structing wagons and plows. 

Lewis Adams had been one of these favored slaves. His 
^vhite father had recognized him and given him advantages 
over some of the others. He was allowed to go where he 
pleased, and this freedom had increased his naturally supe- 
rior intelligence. He had learned three trades well: he could 
make and repair shoes, could fashion harnesses and saddles, 
and was tinsmith for the town and the planters roundabout. 
He was a gunsmith also; in fact, he could turn his hand to 
almost anything. With a white partner named Lee, he now 
carried on these trades in a store which was patronized more 

by white people than by colored. 

Adams was a gray-eyed, swift little man, inclined to be 
frisky; he had a manner which won him friends and a mind 
which earned him respect. Though he had little book learn- 



103 


“Let My People Go” 

ing, he was possessed of keen judgment and had made him- 
self influential politically. Negroes had not yet been entirely 
disfranchised in 1880. Their votes as well as white mens 
could help send a candidate to the capital or keep him at 
home. And in the legislative halls the successful candidate 
sat voting yes or no jointly with a colored man whom only 
yesterday he could have 01 dered whipped. 

To Adams came Colonel Wilbur F. Foster, publisher and 
editor of the local newspaper, the Macon Mail, and after 
the immemorial manner of politicians he asked what, if 
elected, he could do for the Negroes of the district. Mr. 
Adams had the answer ready: give them a state normal 
school. Though opinion was divided among the white tovms- 
people as to the advisability of such a school where are 
we going to find servants, if the niggers are educated?”— 
nevertheless, with the help of the Negro vote. Colonel Foster 
reached the Senate safely and his partner, A. L. Brooks, 
landed in the House. 

Since bills originated in the latter body. Brooks introduced 
a bill November 16, 1880, asking for an appropriation for 
two thousand dollars to be used as salaries in a school for 
training colored teachers; students would be admitted free 
on giving an obligation in writing that they would teach in 
the free public schools for two years after being qualified. 
This bill was endorsed by the Negro members of the Legis- 
lature and also by the chairman of the Committee on Edu- 
cation, Representative W. C. Thomas, who was another of 
the white men who believed the Negro would make a more 
useful citizen trained than ignorant. It passed the Senate and 
was approved by the governor February 12, 1881. There the 
matter rested for a bit, until the governor appointed George 
W. Campbell as chairman of the board of three commis- 
sioners, one of whom was Lewis Adams. Thus these two men 
joined forces — ^Adams the ex-slave with Campbell the ex- 
slave ovtuer, who was also a planter, merchant, banker, and 
man of means. 

But who was to teach the teachers to teach? The Federal 



104 George W ashington Carver 

Government Freedmen’s Bureau and the American Mission- 
ary Association between them had started several thousand 
schools, but Negro education was still so recent that the 
sources where anyone might be found with sufficient experi- 
ence were few. Mr. Campbell wrote to three. Fisk Univer- 
sity, Atlanta University, and Talladega College had no one to 
offer. He tried General Armstrong at Hampton Institute. 

General Samuel Chapman Armstrong while commanding 
colored troops during the Civil War had become convinced 
that the Negro “had excellent qualities and capacities and 
deserv'ed as good a chance as anyone, but not education in 
the so-called cultural subjects— mathematics, literature, his- 
tory, and classical languages — ^which limited the educational 
practice of the day. He had at that time laid plans for a type 
of education that he believed would better fit the needs of 
^iggroes— skill in manual labor which could equip them for 
self-support and at the same time build those virtues of 
providence, judgment, and foresight so deplorably lacking. 
As he said, teachers of great moral strength as well ^ mental 
culture were needed. After two years as Freedmen’s Bureau 
officer at Hampton, Virginia, he had a chance to put his 
theories to work by starting the Hampton Normal ^d Indus- 
trial Institute, where the motto became, “Learn by doing. 

When Mr. Campbell wrote asking for someone to open a 
normal school at Tuskegee, General Armstrong replied that 
he knew of no white man who would fill the reqmrements, 
Lt he did have a young colored man in whom he himself 
nlaced much confidence. The young man had worked hard 
L his education at Hampton, had graduated and ^ 

rH^ptrv=:::rincCo=« 

S'aTfaith fn this young man and would like to suggest hun 

sensors of the school at Tuskegee did not h^itate; 
they telegraphed, “Booker T. Washington will suit us. 



105 


“Let My People Go” 

And so Booker TaUaferro Washington arrived in June 
island went to stay at the home ot Lewis Adams on South 
SW steel a quarter of a mile or so west of the square. He 
^fnm, ho;evl. spend much time there at first^ pmpja- 
tion for his work among unfamiliar people, J*'”® 
month he traveled through the countryside talhng with 
diem eating and sleeping with them. When he tame back 
he knew something of the magnitude of his task and the 

Utter inadequacy of the available facilities. 

The two thousand dollars had been appropriate or 
salaries and could not be expended for buildings or equip- 
ment; these did not exist. Lewis Adams was superintendent 
of the Sunday school of the Methodist Episcopal Church, 
Butler Chapel, a little out beyond his house on pine-covered, 
red-clay Zion Hill. In this leaky, dilapidated structure an- 
other man had held school for a little while, but had left to 
study for the ministry, for he could see no future in the 
school. The building was again freely offered by the colored 
congregation to Booker Washington. This, together with the 
shanty hard by under a chinaberry tree, could serve as a place 
for instruction. On July 4, 1881, the State Normal School 
opened with thirty pupils, most of them older than their 

teacher. 

Young Washington was burning to test in practice some 
of the ideas he had absorbed at Hampton. Furthermore, 
both he and the students wanted to eat, if it could be man- 
aged. Very soon a plantation which began a mile north of 
town came on the market. It certainly did not look promising. 

Years before, a wandering Indian chief had been so pleased 
with the lush fertility of the new land he had encountered 
that he had called it Alabama, “Here we rest.” But since 
that time Kin g Cotton had held despotic sway and despoiled 
the land of its fertility. This little comer of his kingdom, 
stretching as far as the main line of the railroad, was known 
deservedly as Big Hungry. The eye could see only shifting 
sands and gullied landscape with here and there a few small 
tufts of yucca and cactus. Beyond were pine woods that must 



io6 George Washington Carver 

be cleared. The plantation house had burned, but four small 
buildings remained — the cabin which had been used as the 
dining room, the kitchen, a stable, and a hen house. 

The price was high, five hundred dollars for a hundred 
wornout acres, some of which were worth no more than 
twenty-five cents; and nobody had any money whatever. 
However, the treasurer at Hampton lent enough for the first 
payment. The students cleaned out the residue of horses and 
chickens, whitewashed their new recitation rooms, and 
moved in. 

Washington had a devoted helper in Olivia A. Davidson, 
graduate of Hampton and the Massachusetts State Normal 
School, later to become his second wife. She worked indefat- 
igably as a teacher and at the less congenial task of securing 
funds to meet the payments on the property. White citizens 
gave festivals, and the colored townspeople came bringing 
presents according to their means — it might be a hog or only 
half-a-dozen eggs. 

As a contribution toward the worthy object of procuring 
physical nourishment as well as mental, a friend gave one 
hundred dollars, stipulating it should be used to purchase a 
horse to work the land. Adams claims he stretched it to cover 
a “good” horse, a secondhand lumber wagon, a plow, harness, 
and a sack of corn to feed the horse. Standards differ. 
Washington has referred to that horse variously as blind, as 
lame, as broken down, and as worn out. But no horse ever 
went quite f ast enough f or W ashington. 

At least the horse enabled the students to start planting 
cabbages, watermelons, corn, sweet potatoes, and sorghum. 
This they did with enthusiasm, because it promised some- 
thing to eat. Presumably the secondhand wagon did not last 
long, because another was soon needed and, there being no 
money to purchase it, they used the old hubs, found scrap 
iron to tire the wheels, fastening it on with wire and bent 
nails. In such a fashion the School Mechanical Department 
was started under an oak tree on the grounds. 

A long-handled hoe and an ax made up the rest of the 



‘'Let My People Go” ^^7 

equipment of the Agricultural Department. The ax raised a 
vital issue upon which the success or failure of this revolution 
in education depended, the great experiment in teaching 
without textbooks. 

Enthusiasm for work stopped with the garden patch and 
did not extend to clearing land or learning how to farm. The 
students had worked hard as slaves. Why should they go to 
school to learn to work? “Education” to them automatically 
meant freedom from all effort and all hardship. They were 
not prepared to accept the idea that it constituted a step-by- 
step mastering of one thing surely before going on to the 
next. They desired in one seven-league leap to arrive straight 
in the Elysian Fields where there would be no more toil, but 
where they would bask forever in the radiance of the benef- 
icent sun of learning. They cried out for Greek and Latin, 
they wanted to follow the Roman way to politics, which was 
synonymous with power. And, finally, they had a childlike 
desire to excite the wonder and envy of their unlettered fel- 
lows by conversing in polysyllables. 

Opposition outside the school also was vocal. When they 
learned that the school required hard work instead of offering 
an easy path to learning, Negro preachers preached against 
it. And since one heritage of slave days was menial and per- 
sonal service, the scholastic group severely condemned the 
Hampton-Tuskegee idea as tending to keep the Negro in 
subservient manual labor. 

Nevertheless, Washington would not swerve from his con- 
viction that higher education was not so important as some 
education; that those who could utilize higher education 
were exceptions and the exceptions would take care of them- 
selves. The school was to turn out teachers, but teachers in 
the plantation districts. In his month of travel he had seen 
that most Southern Negroes had not the faintest notion of 
how to get along in their new-found freedom. He conceived 
the function of the graduates to be that of helping the “man 
farthest down,” freeing him from the frightful burden of 
ignorance of the simplest and barest rules of how to live. 



io8 George Washington Carver 


To show the pupils the dignity that lay in free labor, he 
himself shouldered the ax and led the way. And, if they 
grumbled, they could do no less than follow. 

Furthermore, they flocked to the Institute in ever-increas- 
ing numbers. "Washington was fond of the little whitewashed 
cabins, but something more was needed. When summer 
came he set them to digging for a new three-story building 
to accommodate the newcomers. They were not skilled car- 
penters, but in spite of mistakes the frame walls rose steadily, 
and in the room set aside to be used as a chapel the four 
teachers and one hundred and fifty students were able to 
hold their Thanksgiving service. A second service of thanks- 
giving was held at Christmas; the last payment had been 
made, and the land and aU that was upon it belonged to 


them. 

Not a student complained of winter discomfort and hard- 
ship, though many were frostbitten during the nights. Since 
the teachers had no blankets to give, they would make the 

rounds to give comfort instead. 

Porter Hall was dedicated the next spring, 1883. But still 
the students came, and another building ^vas necessary. This 
one, Washington decided, should be of brick. No bricks were 
manufactured in that part of the country, and it would be 
costly to ship them in. Therefore, they would make their 
owm, and perhaps even be able to sell some locally and thus 

help knit the school and to^vn together. 

L he later wrote, “All the industries at Tuskegee have 
been started in natural and logical order growing out of our 
needs of a community settlement . . . asbng for nothing 
which we could do for ourselv^. Nothing has been boug 

that the students could produce. 

A half mile out beyond Porter Hall they began thg« 
clay for brick. No one knew how to construct a ki , 
tZ the other failed until Washington finally P^^ed h« 
t'tchto secure funds for a final effort. He never was ab^* 
redeem the watch, but he never regretted its loss. No aino 
S trk was too a;duous to make his dream come true. If h. 



“Let My People Go” 


109 

students worked hard, he worked twice as hard. He taught 
in the classroom, helped the boys clear the land, drove the 
horse built fences, superintended the brickmaking, an 
planned the new four-story Alabama Hall. This experiment 

must not fail — and it did not. ^ i j v. 

When the four stories stood in all their noble splendor, the 

farmers and their families gathered from afar to sec the 
wonder; colored folk had never before lived in a house made 
of brick which was their very own. Timidly as the newly 
dead entering Paradise they put out their hands, but it did 
not crumble before their touch. Its very solidity was a mystic 
symbol and a promise. 

About a mile to the east of the grounds lived Felix Branum 
of the flowing white hair and little goatee who came to cook 
for the school and stayed to prove himself a friend indeed. 
Often and often when he walked over from his home in the 
early morning he would find not a dust of flour in the bin. 
The hungry crew would come in to dinner from driving 
fence posts or laying bricks or chopping wood only to be 
told, “No dinner. The groceries didn’t come. Go back to 
work and I’ll ring the bell when I’m ready.” Then he would 
pick up the handles of his own wheelbarrow and trundle 
into town, buy a bag of rice from some merchant or, if he, 
too, lacked money, borrow some from Campbell and W right 
on his own note and use it to buy a sack of meal. 

On the good days they had “white meat” with boiled 
greens cooked in a big black iron pot out under the arbor- 
vitae and supplemented with corn bread, molasses, and tea. 
Wednesdays and Sundays they were supposed to have light 
bread, but wood was used for heating and for firing the kilns, 
which came first; there was not always enough left to cook 
the bread thoroughly and the center was often raw dough, 
l ater they made a long oven of clay and at night set in it 
lighted Aladdin lamps a yard apart. This did a better job ; 
in the morning Mr. Branum would withdraw more palatable 
food. 

He was indeed an intimate and indispensable part of the 



no George Washington Carver 


school, who had earned the right to state that “Me and 
Booker” were next going to do this or that. “Me and Booker” 
were partners in the financial responsibility and together had 
to study ways and means for getting along. 

When Washington would “get in a tight” he could always 
turn to George Campbell, “from whom I have never sought 
anything in vain.” More than once the Institute would have 
closed had it not been for this friend’s financial aid, and at 
one time the indebtedness had mounted to sixty-five thousand 
dollars, with “nothing out yonder at the school” as security. 

Washington had inspired a boundless faith in himself, and 
proved his venture to be a thing of promise. He made the 
towTispeople feel that the school was dependent on the town, 
and the town on the school. And this trust was shared by the 


merchants of Montgomery. 

Campbell and the other sponsors of the Institute saw to it 
that the Legislature appropriated another thousand dollars 
for salar>', and in 1883 another invaluable person joined the 
staff, Warren Logan, also from Hampton. He came as treas- 
urer, but was much more than that. 

In those first raw beginmngs, times were hard and friends 
were few. Though Washington bought on credit as long as 
possible, there was seldom enough for more than a few days 
ahead, if an unexpected emergency arose— and an unex- 
pected emergency was always arising— you would have to 
give Mr. Logan a week to raise ten dollars. 

Board had to be put at eight dollars a month, but that need 
keep no pupil away. The simple matter of finding room for 
new arrivals ^vas sometimes insuperable, but lack of money 
barred none. Practically no background of education was 
necessary for registration. At best the students had prw- 
ously had only three months of sch^l out of the year M 
with no reading at home to keep them up, mevitably they 

forgot from one term to another. 

At Hampton, Washington had helped imuate a mg 
school, and three years after his own insutute opened 



HI 


‘‘Let My People 

began the same practice there. When a penniless, friendless 
lad appeared, often without a change of clothes, he was told 
he could work for his education; he could “learn to earn, 
sign a contract to work for two or three years in the daytime, 
and go to night school. It might be at farming or in the saw- 
mill, but the brickyard was the real test. Digging, molding, 
stoking kilns, and loading barrows were all backbreaking 
and monotonous, and if a boy could do these for ten hours a 
day and attend classes in arithmetic and geography for two 
hours in the evening, he really wanted to learn. 

His payment for this labor was not in cash, but went 
toward food and a bed and clothes, and what was saved 
above these expenses was stored up to pay for day-school 
expenses later. The regulation to enforce perseverance was 
strict but necessary; if a student left, he forfeited his earn- 
ings. He might abandon the effort for a time, but as a rule he 
would soon say, “I believe I’ll go back to school.’ Mr. Logan 
would make what concessions were possible. When summer 
vacation came, a student could draw a small amount. 
“You’ve worked hard all winter and a fellow has to have a 
dollar or so.” 

Washington had much sympathy with the neglected child, 
and strove to rescue him from an evil environment. Many ot 
his students were still children, even though fully gro^vn, who 
fought more readily than they worked. He never turned them 
away on this account. As punishment, instead of sending 
them home, he gave them extra work to keep them busy. If 
they became too unruly, he put them in the guardhouse until 
they had learned the new and gentler ways. 

Dan was eighteen when he came to Tuskegee, and had 
already worked two years as a carpenter. When the instruc- 
tor asked too peremptorily for his ax, he refused to give it up. 
A row followed, and the instructor called Dan a liar. Dan 
went at him with his knife in his hand, intent on murder. 
Dan was sent to the principal. 

“You know you were very rude, don’t you, Dan?” asked 



II2 


George Washington Carver 


Mr. Washington. “But I’ll give you another chance if you’ll 
beg Mr. B ’s pardon.” 

“No, he’ll have to beg mine!” 

“You’re hot and angry,” said Mr. Washington. “Go away 
and think it over and come back tomorrow.” 

Dan came back the next day, but he was in the same mood. 
So he was sent away to think it over for another day. He still 
wanted to cut the instructor’s throat. This went on for four 
days, but still he was not sent away. W^ashington s patience, 
which was infinite, finally won. And his reward was great, 
because “Dan,” after fifty years at the Institute, was still one 


of its most valued assets. 

Teaching at Tuskegee had to go back to first principles. 
The students had to be taught how to care for their bodies, 
how to bathe, how to brush their teeth, and how to dress. 
The rising bell sounded at 5 a.m. and the retiring bell at 
9 : 30 P.M. There were seventeen bells in all and every one 
meant something. At the first one each had to clean his room 
and then go to breakfast ; and he had to eat everythmg on his 
plate. That depended, of course, on whether there was any- 


thing to eat. 11 . 

Students were being trained to do things systematical y, 

they had nothing like that at home. Coming as they did from 
plantation cabin life, they had to be taken care of all « 
L day, and the night, too, for that matter. Even at chapd, 
which was conducted each evening, the gospel of the tooth- 
brush and the nightshirt was preached mcessantly. No one 
could make them go to sleep, though they were usually timd 
enough to do so anyway, but quiet could be enforce^ ^ 
was. A student officer would make the rounds in the d 
torv and pull the covers back. John didn t have a mg 
n:T“Ttme to Mom, but she didn’t send one yet,” 
explain. Down would go John’s name on a list, to be checke 
ofl^only when the nightshirt had arrived and was " ^ 



"Let My People Go" ^*3 

tuted a military regime after the school had been going a 
few years. Guard duty at night by the more responsible 

students seemed particularly necessary. 

On entering school, young men were required to purchase 
the uniform coat ($6.00) and cap ($1.35)- “The pants 
($4.50) may be procured later.” These sums covered the 
bare cost of materials. Incidentally, making the uniforms 
provided work for the tailor shop. On Sundays and special 
occasions, as well as while drilling, all wore the coat of blue 
and the flat kepi patterned on that of the Union soldier; the 
officer of the day was distinguished by his long sash. A white 
major came from Fort McPherson to give instruction until 
some of the older students had been trained to take over. 
White people would not have tolerated the boys’ being armed 
with rifles, so they drilled with sticks or umbrella handles, 
but the regulations of the commandant were strictly en- 
forced. 

Washington’s presence was so forcefully commanding that 
self-restraint in his presence was automatic. When he walked 
into a room, he did not have to say, “Be quiet.” Everybody 
just was. He was kind, but he had little time to joke and 
laugh, and few were really at ease in his company. 

The time soon arrived when he had to spend many months 
away on the difficult and wearisome quest for funds to keep 
pace with his school, which he envisaged expanding out into 
infinity. He lectured incessantly about it, trying to make clear 
the necessities of his people and their potentialities; his own 
personality and achievements were his best argument. New 
England was his chief focus — New England which remem- 
bered something of the fervor of the Abolition spirit and had 
not, like most of the rest of the country, dismissed the Negro 
problem from mind, once the battle of slavery had been won. 
He approached possible friends with prospectus in hand, 
figures to show ^vhat he hoped could be accomplished in the 
way of making better human beings, given so many dollars 
and cents. 

His responsibility was heavy indeed. So many people who 



1 14 George Washington Carver 

happened to hear of his experiment took it for granted that 
he could not succeed. If he failed, it would not be his per- 
sonal failure alone, but the failure of four million others, who 
would be thrown back “where they belonged.” Therefore, he 
never stopped, and that is how work became a tradition at 
Tuskegee. 

The night guard would be the first to know when Mr. 
Washington had returned, because he would hear the gal- 
loping feet of the principal’s horse long before that five- 
o’clock rising bell. Rain or shine, in rubber boots if need be, 
Mr. ^Vashington would be out catching up on how things 
had been going in his absence. His tour of the grounds usually 
ended by hitching his horse, Dexter, to a post in front of the 
dining hall, where he would inspect the breakfast menu, the 
linen, the service, and the kitchen. 

Was anything lagging? The principal carried a notebook 
and jotted down, “I notice a conduit is open,” or the fact 
that a bridge had developed a loose plank, that repairs were 
needed on driveways or on buildings. Nothing escaped him. 
If he saw a boy walking across the lawn, he suggested. Here 
at Tuskegee we try not to do things like that.” When he gave 
vesper talks on Sunday evenings, the subject might be Keep- 
ing in repair” or “Teamwork.” With a vigilant eye he 
watched the students marching out of chapel, and if a button 
were off or a spot showing, he would take them out of line. 
This was neither criticism nor command, but a plea to eep 
up the standards. Though it might run counter to mbred 
habits of the students, nobody could resist it. Negroes had to 
prove themselves, and this was their proving ground. Most 
other large schools had white teachers to give them a hand 
UP but at Tuskegee they were on their own. 

^He had a multiplicity of details to look after, but he also 
had his long-range program, and they fitted in toge er. 

Booker T. Washington’s name did not begm to 
national proportions until 1895, when the comnuttee of the 
Atlanta Cotton States and International “ 

to Dcrmit a Negro to speak at the opening. T 



"Lef My People Go” 115 

occasioned violent discussion and serious misgivings among 
white people; if a Negro were to stand on the same platform 
with President Cleveland, he would be raised above them! 
At Tuskegee, while he was composing his speech, the faculty 
hung on every word. So much depended on it. 

Northern newspapers covered the exposition because it 
was to signalize the fact that King Cotton was firmly re* 
established on the throne from which the Civil War had dis- 
lodged him. And Northern mills had a vital financial interest 
in the re-establishment. But the newspapermen were capti- 
vated by the immediate drama, and reported that rather 
than the exposition. James Creelman of the New York 
World thus described the Negro protagonist: “There was a 
remarkable figure ; tall, bony, straight as a Sioux chief, high 
forehead, straight nose, heavy jaws, and strong, determined 
mouth with big white teeth, piercing eyes, and a command- 
ing manner.” 

It is hard now to realize the impression such a break with 
tradition could mean in the South. The Atlanta Constitution 
said prophetically the next day, “That man’s speech is the 
beginning of a moral revolution in America.” The moral 
revolution was slow to come about, but certainly it did re- 
ceive a tremendous impetus under Washington’s direction. 

Frederick Douglass, who had piloted the Negro out of 
slavery, had just died, and his mantle of leadership was now 
bestowed on Washington. Washington’s trusted secretary for 
many years. Emmet J. Scott, has said that when Mr. Wash- 
ington was first called the leader of his race he was at a loss 
to know what was expected of him in that capacity, but the 
tasks came so fast he was not left long in doubt. 

Though the scope of his usefulness had broadened, the 
channel through which he worked remained Tuskegee Insti- 
tute. One immediate advantage was its expansion and the 
opportunity to organize it into nine recognized departments. 
To each student who came to the school he aimed to impart 
the practical knowledge of some one industry “together with 
the spirit of industry, thrift, and economy, that they would 



ii6 George Washington Carver 

be sure of knowing how to make a living after they left us.” 
Everybody, boys and girls alike, had to work. They had to 
study actual things instead of mere books alone. The aim was 
mental, moral, and manual training, all three in equal 
amounts. Washington was still convinced that manual train- 
ing was of vast importance. 

Placed as Superintendent of Industries was his older 
brother, John H. Washington, who had helped him go to 
Hampton and had in turn been helped to receive his own 
education there later. Mr. Adams had joined the Institute in 
1890. He could conduct his business on the grounds and at 
the same time give instruction in harness making, shoe repair- 
ing, and tinsmithing. When Horace White, editor of the 
New York Evening Post, had visited the school he wrote: 
“All the trades that can be carried on by hand or without 
much machinery are taught here, such as blacksmithing, 
carpentry, brickmaking, foundry work, dairy work, cooking, 
tinsmithing, dressmaking, laundry work, wagon making, 

saddlery, shoemaking, tailoring, etc I was informed that 

the demand for their wagons and carriages in the country 
round about is largely in excess of their ability to supply. 
The same could be said of the brooms the girls made from 
longleaf pine and of their mattresses, and the foundry could 
never keep up with the demand for hand-wrought andirom. 

From the first, Washington had resolved to make the 
school an integral part of the community H.s atm being not 
merely to build a good school where individuals could re- 
ceive instruction, but, through them, to improve the cona- 
tions of his people, he must fit his student to be 
would return to the districts 

back their knowledge with them for the benefit ^ 
farmers, who were too old to go to school, must also be gi 

The first Farmers’ Conference had been called in 1 892, and 
f, Hundred eacer men and their wives had assembled 
fe'e more of the wonders of this school and Usten to the^lj 
of ’xL at home.” They were made to feel welcome and a, 



“Let My People Go” 

the same time were admonished to try to improve their 
status. One way for the women would be not to wrap their 
hair in strings, and to wear a dark-colored sailor hat to take 
the place of the red bandanna, and neat calico or gingham 
to take the place of homespun. Having no money to pay for 
these items, they were urged to plant a garden, grow fruit, 
raise hens, keep a pig and a cow, and take a load of produce 
to town for exchange. 

Agriculture was the main dependence of the colored people 
in the Gulf states; it was estimated that 85 per cent were 
farmers, and the Board of Trustees of the Institute concluded 
that they would probably remain so. This meant that special 
emphasis must be placed on the Agricultural Department, 
and that an expert in agricultural science was needed to 
teach the mysteries of the soil and its mastery. 

In the fall of 1896 the school weekly announced that the 
newly organized department would be in charge of Mr. 
Carver from Iowa. 



CHAPTER XI 


‘'Mj Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides ioo^^ 


T„ 


_HE BOY FROM THE INSTITUTE pullcd Up his horSC 

outside the small station of Chehaw. He was late, and the 
train had come and gone, but Mr. Carver from Iowa, who 
was waiting by the side of the tracks, did not seem to be 
impatient; he was bending over a bush, examining it intently. 
The boy gazed with only a small degree of interest at the 
new teacher, though he was odd, not like the people round 
there, with his gold-inlaid, celluloid watch chain, his flowing, 
soft tie and gray suit, a bit too tight, only the top button of 
his jacket fastened, a pert pink rose in the lapel. There 
seemed nothing extraordinary about the handlebar mus- 
taches. nor the'^beak of a nose, rather Semitic, jutting from 
between deep, burning eyes. When the tall figure straightened 
up at the sound of the approaching carriage, it did not 
straighten completely; Mr. Carver was a little stooped, and 
looked rather like a question mark, though he had filled out 
somewhat during his Uvo years on a salary. 

He climbed into the surrey and started a companionab e 
conversation. Holding out some twigs and lea\es in his re 
markable hands, he asked, “Can you tell me what this plant 
is'^” But the bov stared and shook his head; he didn't toow. 

This ivas Mr. Car^■er's first sight of his neiv surroundings, 
and his eyes were intent on e\ery aspect of the rolling 
Alabama landscape through which he was traveling \\ a 
he could see of it through the rusty clouds of dust sent whirl- 
ing bv the trotting hor.se. From time to time his view vvas cut 
olf I,; the high banks of red and yellow clay that swallow 
the rood; the soils of Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa had ne 

118 



‘'My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too'' 119 

shown him such vivid colors. But beyond the road, lined with 
broom sedge and tufts of wild briar, and beyond the eroded 
cut banks, much of the land was abandoned to scrub pine, 
and yucca lifted spiny, parched heads from heaps of dry 
sand. He sadly observed the reason for the desolate scene: 
fields of coppery stalks flaunting balls of white stretching to 
right and left. 

By early October, Alabama was beginning to take a few 
grateful breaths after the scorching summer heat. But it was 
also the time for the hardest work. Bent backs rose a little 
above the cotton rows — the backs of the very young and the 
very old as well as the sturdier ones of the years in between, 
who were better fitted for the toil. Black hands, small and 
large, reached rhythmically for the puffs of cotton. 

Now and again the surrey passed a saddleback cabin of 
logs or rough pine slabs with three-inch gaps between, 
whipped into monotonous gray by sun and wind, the wooden 
shutter of the one window and the wooden door swinging 
open, chimney propped up by sticks, rickety and forlorn. 
Two poles with a few boards nailed on served as a ladder to 
the garret where the older boys slept with the rats. It had 
four sides, it had a roof, but these were so inadequate that 
they invited rain and cold to enter and dwell within. 

The bare black feet of the lately emancipated had beaten 
the door yard hard. No tree, no bush, no flower bloomed 
there. A pigpen reeked at the very door, and down the hill 
was the open well where the filth was certain to drain into 
it. Lean, mangy hounds skulked about with flies sucking at 
their festering sores — ^flies which had flown straight from the 
place in the bushes which served as an outhouse. How could 
anyone keep well or have any ambition who lived in such a 
place? 

The trio of man, boy, and horse skirted the town of Tuske- 
gee, peaceful and white-painted, more prosperous than many 
similar towns of the South because of the business brought 
by the Institute; they followed the Atlanta-Montgomery 
highway for a mile and turned right onto the busy campus. 



120 


George Washington Carver 

Cassedy Hall and Thrasher Hall had now been built and 
were occupied. From the long, low building which housed 
the foundry, the wheelwright, and blacksmith shops issued 
bangs and crashes, and from the sawmill rose a vibrant hum. 

Mr. Carver’s long legs, and feet which seemed overlarge 
for so slight a frame, had covered thousands of miles during 
his thirty and some years of life. Almost immediately he put 
them to their accustomed use in order to survey the place 
^vhich was to be his home for many years to come. He 
started %valking northward, being particularly eager to see 
the site of the new agricultural building. 

John F. Slater, a ^vealthy cotton manufacturer of Nor- 
wich, Connecticut, had left a million-dollar fund, the in- 
terest of which was to go to helping Negroes. This fund, 
through its administrators, was one of the best friends 
Tuskegee Institute ever had. The board of the Slater 
Foundation, with J. L. M. Curry as chairman, had allocated 
five thousand dollars toward a building for the exclusive use 
of the Agricultural Department, and Morris K. Jesup, treas- 
urer, as an individual had given another five thousand. This 
ten thousand was to cover the cost of materials which must 
be purchased outside. Clay for brick and at least part of the 
wood and the actual construction were available on the spot 
by student labor. The materials would be hauled on carts 
made in the wheelwright’s division by mules raised at Tuske- 
gee. The Slater-Armstrong Building, when fimshe , w 
be the finest of any school in the South. 

The campus, as Mr. Carver soon rtiscovered. ^ 

primitive state. It was hard to keep things tidy ^ 

Lnev especially when that little money was needed for the 
incessant construction. The roads were lighted by oil lamps, 
and a boy earned his board by making the rounds and keep 
“g the w icks trimmed ; a storm or a strong wind put out the 

lifrhts leaving the campus dark. u j he 

ThVroads Were deep in dust now, and water had to be 



Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too” 121 

wells when the sun was not too fierce to dry the surface, 
wet from the splashings. The unmarried teachers had a 
bathhouse under the hill, but those with families living in 
homes of their own had to carry up water. There was no 
sewerage. Refuse from the kitchen in Alabama Hall went 
down in a ditch, and turkey buzzards hovered about with 
evil beaks, curved and sharp for vicious tearing. The slow, 
heavy vultures alighted in such numbers that, while work 
was going on near by, a boy was kept busy chunking stones 
at the bright targets of wattles. 

Wherever Mr. Carver’s steps led him he plucked leaves 
and stems and asked a passerby, “Can you tell me what this 
plant is?” 

“I don’t know.” 

He was to repeat the question many times in the next few 
days ; he was so taken with the strange plants. His books had 
not yet come, but he thought if he knew the common names 
he could trace most of them. However, the answers were all 
the same, “I don’t know,” and the accompanying stare im- 
plied that he was not quite right in the head to be wanting to 
know anything so unimportant as the name of a weed. 

But “weeds” to Mr. Carver had hidden within them as 
great potentialities for usefulness as the strawberry patch 
from which he could look down into the bottom on the truck 
farm of cabbages and turnips and collard greens, or the 
nursery which was just being started there. 

Across the highway spread the parade ground, where the 
boys drilled in the early mornings and late afternoons, and 
beside it stood the wide, low-roofed Pavilion. In order that 
Hard-Shell Baptist should not war with Primitive Baptist or 
Methodist either with them or the teachers from the North 
—who might very easily be Episcopalians — the school was 
non-denominational. Chapel had at first been held in Porter 
Hall, but as the Institute expanded a larger meeting place 
was needed, and this rude structure of unplaned boards had 
been erected. The floor consisted of the earth, and the back- 
less benches had been made by spiking planks onto posts 



122 


George Washington Carver 

driven into the ground. Originally intended to be only teni' 
porary, it was forced to serv'e many purposes for many years. 

Its function as a house of worship for all religions was soon 
to be abandoned. The earnestly philanthropic Stokes family 
of New Y ork had given W ashington money for a new chapel, 
and ground had been broken in the spring of ’96. 

It was logical that the agricultural building should be out 
to the north on the fringe of the campus where the farm 
proper began, but some thought the new chapel, just across 
the ^vay from it, should not be so far from the center of things 
as a quarter of a mile. Washington knew, however, that 
something had been started which could not stop. The school 
was going to grow, and it had to grow in that direction; 
there was no other. 

From this hillock on which the Slater-Armstrong Building 
was soon to stand the ground receded in a long, graceful 
?weep, pretty to look at but complicating the problem of 
erosion. And beyond were the piny woods of Big Hungry^ 
deep within which roamed the Institute’s thirty razorback 
hogs that looked as though they had been built for speed 
instead of for the table. There was no such thing as fattening 
these wild hazel-splitters; they would be lean no matter 
what you did. 

With the exception of the small industrial nucleus, the 
campus was in reaUty a farm of two thousand acres, stand- 
ing on ground a litde higher than the surrounding country. 
The land was better, but only by comparison; it, too, was 
riddled vs ith wash gulleys. The water had to get out some- 
how, and it took what topsoil it could along with it. You 
could drop a two-horse wagon into one valley, and it would 

be completely hidden. 

In 1819, when Alabama had become a state, thirty-three 
million acres were chiefly virgin forests with some grassland. 
It was blessed with fertile soil, a long growing season, and 
abundant rainfall. These natural advantages were shared by 
the other Southern states, and helped biing about th^ 
downfall. Unlike New England, where every stone had to be 



"My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too” 123 

laboriously dragged from the earth, everything in the South 
was too easy, and where life becomes too easy the moral 
fiber is likely to disintegrate. 

Cotton was the seed from which had flowered both the 
ease and the downfall. 

Cotton was grown and manufactured into cloth 2500 
years ago. It was growing on this continent before the ad- 
ventitious arrival of Columbus. The Virginians tried their 
hand at its cultivation; in 1764 eight small bags were ex- 
ported to Liverpool, and less than thirty years later the 
amount had increased to nine thousand bales. The healthy 
baby of commerce had been bom, but no one had the wis- 
dom to foretell that it was to develop into a devouring mon- 
ster, one of the greatest forces for the progress of mankind 
the earth has ever seen, and at the same time, by misuse, a 
powerful force for evil. 

The process of manufacture still remained as costly as that 
for woolens, silks, and linens, and the world was still await- 
ing a cheap textile twelve years after the United States had 
won its freedom. Then a young man just out of Yale, Eli 
Whitney, went on vacation to Savannah and, as a result, in 
1 794 was granted a patent on a gin. Some say he caught the 
idea from a slave whose fingers had been busy separating the 
staple from the seed at the rate of a pound a day but who 
had a head for machinery. Since slaves could not take out 
patents, this tradition could never be substantiated. 

The result of the invention was an almost fantastic in- 
crease in production. Out of New Orleans, Mobile, Savan- 
nah, Charleston, up the gangplank and into the hold went 
bale after heavy bale wrapped in sacking and fastened with 
iron, bound for distant ports. Cotton had set in motion the 
spinning wheels of industry in England and New England, 
and these crescendoed to a roar. Thus was launched the in- 
dustrial revolution, which initiated the modern machine age. 

Somebody had to suffer from the resulting monstrous 
growth of individual fortunes. The millworkers in both 
countries were exploited, but a more serious behind-the- 



124 George Washington Carver 

scenes tragedy was being enacted, in the form of slavery. No 
long-fingered machine which could pluck the locks from the 
bursting bolls had yet been invented. Each boll matured at a 
slightly different time within the two months’ span. Strong 
back muscles were required and a directing and selecting 
brain. The slave trade battened on this vast need for human 


labor. 

Long after England had led the way among European 
nations to abolish slave trading and slavery itself in the 
colonies, illicit traders could find an avid market in the 
Southern states of the United States. 


The journey began in Africa: slaves were branded with 
the merchant’s initials by means of hot irons, their heads 
were shaved, and they were stripped naked, men and women 
alike. To the clanking of their leg irons they were stowed 
away. According to Captain Theodore Canot, buccaneering 
trader of the early nineteenth century, The second mate 
and boatswain descend into the hold, whip in hand, and 
range slaves in their regular places; those on the right side 
of the vessel facing forward and lying in each others lap, 
while those on the left are similarly stowed with their faces 

to^vard the stem The taller being selected for the 

greatest breadth of the vessel, while the shorter and younger 
are lodged near the bows.” If a slave attempted volimtaiy 
staiA'ation, “his appetite is stimulated by the medical anti- 
dnte of a cat.” Hundreds of thousands died on the long 
Imges; many cast themselves into the -a. Only one out 
of six. captured in Africa, arrived m the New World. 

The joumev ended on the slave block of those same eig 
states vvhich, in consequence, became the chief cotm-pro- 
ducinc. community in the world. King Cotton spread out on 
h s we throne. His scepter was the lash, wh.ch he welded 

other, brought about by good fc«d. gracious surroundmg. 



“My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too*' 125 

and perfect service. Planters had time to raise beautiful 
horses and build beautiful homes — things they could touch 
—but they had little time for thinking. 

Cotton altered the physical geography of the South as 
well as its social forms. The army of slave labor was not m 
use except during the cotton season. To pay for its keep 
during the winter it was put to work clearing the forests to 
make new fields to plant more cotton. Trees were felled or 
killed by girdling and then left to rot. The destruction was 
finished by burning. What flames had not been deliberately 
set, occurred accidentally. Millions of acres of longleaf pine 
vanished. 

Once the trees were demolished, the rolling topography of 
Alabama and its open winters allowed the valuable topsoil 
to be washed away. There were no deep freezes to hold the 
soil, and moisture fell not in the form of snow, which would 
melt gradually into the earth, but as heavy rains. Four out 
of five acres were now eroded ; some were entirely gone — and 
eroded soil is gone forever. Millions of tons of plant food 
were being dumped into the ocean every year, which must 
be replaced by commercial fertilizers — potash, nitrogen, 
and phosphoric acid — at enormous expense. 

The cotton plant itself, which is a heavy feeder, grown 
year after year, continued the work of exhausting the soil 
nutrients that were left. It was easier to move than to pre- 
serv'e old land. The old man was not joking when he said, 
“Son, I know a lot more about farming than you do; I’ve 
worn out three farms in my lifetime.” Thus he continued to 
wear out farm land, move on to more fertile fields, and wear 
those out, too, until finally there were no more fertile acres 
to exhaust. Cotton in its greed had drained the earth of 
sustenance, leaving endless acres of waste land. 

The dangers of the one-crop system from an economic as 
well as an agricultural point of view had been denounced for 
years. No balanced economy was possible under such ex- 
tremes of wealth and degradation. The wealth had not been 
earned. The value of the cotton crop in i860 was $200,000, 



126 


George Washington Carver 


000, but Southern banks held less than one sixth of this 
capital, the rest came from the North. The one-crop system 
was hastening toward its owti ruin when the cotton barons 
and the industrial barons, each with an eye on the expansion 
of the W est, met, and the former were vanquished. But, un- 
fortunately for the South, it was able to turn this conflict into 
a scapegoat ; it laid the burden of its failure on the war and 
on the Yankees. 

The ^vorld was still clamoring for cotton in such unbe- 
lievable quantities that, compared with the dislocation 
caused by war in times past, its restoration was remarkably 
rapid. Prosperity in the South could never be the same 
again, but its inhabitants would not admit that, and tried 
to rebuild on the same insecure footing, adhering to the one- 
crop system and the forms of slavery regardless of ever- 
diminishing returns. Although they increased the wealth of 
the 'world by millions of dollars, they became the most im- 
poverished and backward of any large group of producers 
in the United States. And this despite the fact that the South 
could grow any crop that could be grown anpvhere else in 
the countr>\ Since ante-bellum wealth for the fortunate few 
had been based on cotton, that same few, now less fortunate, 
were determined to maintain the status quo— continue to 
glut the world market with cotton and keep Negro labor in 


the state of peonage. 

The Negro had stumbled into the dawn of his new day 
with a consuming desire for education and the right to own 
his owm land; he had believed these would naturally attend 
upon freedom. Emancipation had proclaimed, “You can go 
where you will.” He had emerged and looked about and 
found there was no place for him to go save back to prisom 
After a few brief, wild, riotous years he had been fettered 
aeain by the Southern economic system which stubbornly 
persisted in throwing itself under the wheels of the car in 

which rode the Juggernaut, Cotton. ^ ^ 

Negroes had worked the land for two hundred and fatty 



Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too 127 

years, and their work had been the basis of prosperity for 
both North and South, but neither the land nor its fruits 
were their o\\ti. The aggregate mass in the South \vas like a 
troubled sea, and the dark waters heaved and shifted con- 
tinuously, usually from poor acres to worse ; they moved un- 
easily from east to west and north to the cities and some few 
back again to the farms. They were at last free to travel, but 
they knew not whither. 

Sixty-five per cent of the farmers of Alabama were now 
nominally tenants, and the one-crop system left the tenant at 
the mercy of the weather, both friend and foe of the farmer, 
with no reserve to outwit that weather during such years as 
it might feel an enmity. Food crops matured at the same 
time as the cotton, but he had no time for them, even if he 
had been allowed to plant ; so long as he did not o^^^l his own 
land he had to raise what the landlord dictated, and this was 
the cash crop — cotton. If he planted corn, he might carry 
some of it away; if he raised hogs on shares and some died, 
he might say, “Those were yours that died. Mine lived.” But 
he couldn’t carry off a five-hundred-pound bale. The entire 
system \vas geared to cotton, including the banks, and he had 
no means of disposing of a diversified crop. 

Being paid for nothing except the cotton he produced, he 
planted up to the cabin door, leaving only room for a bit of 
corn and cane, and went in debt to the landlord’s commis- 
sary for the rest of his food. He was not a farmer as the word 
is used elsewhere in the country. He had no farm machinery, 
few pigs, no chickens, no garden. He simply did not know 
anything about vegetables; only occasionally did he even 
have shallots and collards. 

His diet of meat, meal, and molasses left him without 
health; tenancy left him without ambition. Tenants had no 
legal claim on any repairs they might make; by improving 
the property they were increasing its value and thereby in- 
viting the landlords to raise their rent. The charge of “im- 
providence,” “laziness,” “shiftlessness” was the result of the 



128 George Washington Carver 

system rather than the cause of the poverty. Negroes were 
the first victims of the system, but eventually planters and 
poor whites suffered also. 

A miasma of fear drifted over the pleasant land of honey- 
suckle and jessamine. The war had left a residue of fear in 
the white man: first, fear of Negro political domination, 
which he combated with disfranchisement, second, fear of 
economic competition. At first, Emancipation had seemed to 
offer the poor white a chance of becoming a planter, but by 
the beginning of the twentieth century this hope had vamshed 
and he had to admit he was still in the laboring class. But he 
would not become a fellow laborer with the Negro. He had 
once proved that he was superior to someone else by being 
an overseer of slaves. In order to maintain his advantage he, 
too, would subscribe to the status quo, even though it kept 
him from making any progress himself. ^ 

Booker Washington looked for a great renascence in the 
South when the white men had recovered from their resent- 
ment and his people had mastered trades that would be use- 
ful to industry. “You can’t keep a man in the ditch, 
used to say, “unless you are willing to stay there witn him. 
\Vise as he was, he could not foresee for how long a time fai 
too many white men would be willing to keep at least one 

foot in the ditch-on the neck of the Nepo. 

Alfred Adler in his Individual Psychology refers t 
“ideal of superiority found to an exaggerated degree among 
the nervous.” Such persons have recourse 
the minimizing, and the undervaluation 
rase of fearful Southern whites any person who '^^sjnarke 
bv a different color of skin and different texture of hatr was 

'"xhe Sri lel^s alubtle. subconscious expectation of 

.t ,.hi.h 1. "■ 



“My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too” 129 

Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution 
that had been drawn and ratified by the states to protect the 
Negro in his civil rights, and a network of “customs to bul- 
wark the barrier of caste. Caste taboos among primitive 
peoples center chiefly about eating and sex. These South- 
erners reasoned that if the taboo against eating with a Negro 
were broken, it followed that he would seek to rape their 
sisters. One young white woman of the town of Tuskegee 
would not come out to the campus unless accompanied by 
her husband or brother, and even then would not dare 
descend from her carriage. 

Negroes had no more desire for racial amalgamation than 
the whites; the vast amount that had taken place had been 
forced upon them. The admixture of white blood into 
African occurred in the offspring of white masters and slave 
girls, but breaking the taboo against a union which reversed 
the sexes was punishable by death. 

To teach the dignity of human labor and to bring about a 
better understanding between white and colored peoples, 
Washington gradually gathered a faculty inspired with ideals 
similar to his owm. He drew largely on Hampton Institute, 
but he kept in touch with other schools, seeking the best 
minds he could find for each department. One, who came 
from a New England college, was expecting to be an Epis- 
copal priest; he had no particular liking for teaching and 
expected to stay a year at Tuskegee. But in three or four 
months he had glimpsed the scope and beauty of Washing- 
ton’s dream. All thoughts of being a priest left him; his call- 
ing was at Tuskegee, and there he was content to spend the 
rest of his life. 

Dropped between the Negro and the white world was a 
curtain which consisted of the very fact that he was a Negro; 
it was like a second personality of which he was always con- 
scious because it was forever thwarting his free operation 
as a human being. One of the first requirements of each new 
teacher was adjustment to the customs of his wEite neighbors. 

With the exception of a few^ colored families with whom 



130 


George Washington Carver 


Mr. Carver had lived as a youngster, he had spent all his 
life among white people. Now he was to take his place among 
members of his own race. But he was soon made aware of 
the vast differences between being a Negro and being a 
Negro in the deep South. He had been there only a little 
while and had not learned the ins and outs of the system. The 
food at the Institute did not seem to agree with him, so he 
wandered forth in search of something that would rest more 
easily on his stomach. At the bottom of the hill just below 
Cassedy Hall was a tiny restaurant and he turned in there. 

Next morning at breakfast someone asked. Where were 
you last night? You didn’t come to supper.” 

“I went to a restaurant.” 

“What restaurant?” 

“A little restaurant down under the hill on the way to 


— a colored restaurant.” 

“You don’t need to tell me it was colored. If you ate 
there, I know it was colored. You needn’t have put that in.’ 

This ^vas the sort of thing Mr. Carver had already ac- 
customed himself to, though he found it shockingly ^eater 
in degree in Alabama, because of the intensity of kehng be- 
hind it. He did not, at first, comprehend this intensity ; never- 
theless he did not come into open conflict because he lacked 
any semblance of belligerence. He obeyed the dictates as he 


encountered them. ... 

The dictates were multitudinous. In a town, a Negro id 
not walk to the right on the sidewalk but on the gutter side, 
right or left, so that he could be shoved off quickly where he 
bflonged. He must not stir out on the streets after dark. He 
must ftand uncovered whUe talking to a white man, whe*e 
Twem a college president or the lowliest tenant, ^diou 
reaard for the ffct that in the matter of educauon and social 
X'as much disparity existed among Negroes - am^ 
whites ■ they must all be squeezed mto the estabhshe p 
t hrinv servants He must not address any member of hi 
mvn race as Mr. or Mrs. or Miss; as inferior beings they wt« 
not entitled to such titles of respect. A student once re err 



**My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too” 13 1 

to a teacher as Mr. Blank, and a white citizen who overheard 
him came blustering out to the Institute with a shotgun to 
correct the impudence. A white man seldom even called a 
Negro by his surname; Washington was “Booker” to the 
townspeople. And if a little gray were showing, he or she 
was addressed simply as “Uncle” or “Auntie.” By some 
queer quirk in the white mind a concession could be made 
to one of the higher ranking teachers; he might be called 
Professor or Doctor. 

These were all social customs which had been added to 
the more familiar segregation, or “Jim Crowism.” 

Some of the teachers from Northern universities bumped 
into trouble at first through ignorance of these “social cus- 
toms.” One who had recently arrived went into Montgomery 
to buy a tie. He looked through the rack and saw none that 
quite suited. 

“You don’t like them?” asked the white store proprietor 
ominously. 

“No.” 

His fellow faculty member warned him hastily in a whis- 
per, “They expect you to say, ‘Yes sir.’ ” 

But the warning came too late. An altercation arose. The 
proprietor grabbed a knife and stabbed the teacher, nar- 
rowly missing his heart. 

Many of the teachers were thin-skinned and nervous, but 
they had some rezison to be. Any infringement of the caste 
system was likely to be punished by the mob, and the Negro 
could not count on protection by law. 

Another consideration ranked far higher in importance 
than this personal one; the existence of the school depended 
on white good will, and many were the bitter sacrifices made 
for it. The Institute people had to learn to suppress rigidly 
any show of resentment against injustice. A teacher was 
shoved in the gutter; he wanted to fight back, but he had to 
accept the outrage in silence. Constantly he heard a voice, 
“You can’t do that. It would jeopardize the school.” 

Better not subject yourself to such indignities any more 



I 


George Washington Carver 


Uian could be avoided. Better sit in your study and philoso- 
phize. Better stay on the campus as much as possible, in that 
oasis of freedom where courtesy and breeding were the na- 
tural order of things, and you could devote your attention to 
fostering the development of useful citizens. 

The ignorant colored farmer cringed and grinned and 
mouthed his “Yas suh! Yas suh!” The Southern white man 
pointed to the almost constant grin and boasted, “See how 
happy he is? That’s because we know how to treat ’em.” But 
the smile on the face of the Negro was not necessarily the 
reflection of a happy spirit. It was his defense. He thus 
armored himself in the interests of self-preservation. The 
smile was the Negro’s pretense that he was not afraid of the 
ferocity of the white man, who could take away his me^ of 
living, who could take away his freedom and put him in 
prison for no just cause, who could take away his life. 

Countee Cullen’s lines to Paul Lawrence Dunbar might 
have been penned of many another Negro poet who never 

wrote a poem : 

Born of the sorrowful of heart 
Mirth was a crown upon his head; 

Pride kept his twisted lips apart 
In jest, to hide a heart that bled. 


Set one ot the old people to talking about the days before 
surrender, one who was once a slave, and in the coutse of his 
reminiscing he would surely relate how he or one of his fel- 
low slaves would not endure being whipped and away 
no matter how violent the punishment was to be. Thoug 

might be deeply buried, that spirit was still alive. 

But energy and ambition had been dramed from them by 
the one-crop system, which offered no hope of change or 
nrnnress The Negro was left out of that Amencan concep 
rrat i:; mL could be rich in free i^erica^e 
wanted to. He might be free and twenty-one, but he was not 
white. As a result of this insult to their digmty as human 
beings, many sank into sullen serfdom. 



**My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too” 133 

In many places this young man from the West found the 
weight of apathy lying heavily. Unfortunately, he sometimes 
thought, too many interpreted the meaning of Alabama, 
“Here we rest,” as that of doing just as little as possible to 
eke out the miserable existence in which they found them- 
selves one year after the other. Cotton could stand a lot of 
abuse; “if you don’t feel like it, don’t work today. Just loaf 
and stay out of the rain.” They just borrowed in the spring 
and paid back in the fall. Nobody knew anything else. Settle- 
ment time came a little before Christmas, and if they re- 
ceived any money at all it went into purchasing a few bottles 
of nepenthe, in the form of explosive whisky. 

Few were eager to be reformed. Most were ruled by super- 
stition. One would assert positively, “Chickens hatched in 
May sleep themselves away.” Another would look at a mis- 
erable stand and mourn, “I guess the moon wasn’t right 
when I planted that seed.” Not a two-horse plow could be 
found in the county. They had a definite prejudice against 
deep plowing; they claimed that the land would all wash 
away. 

As Mr. Carver looked at these farmers, the lines of Edwin 
Markham came to him: 

Bowed by the weight of centuries he leans 
Upon his hoe and gazes on the ground, 

The emptiness of ages in his face, 

A thing that grieves not and that never hopes. 

This, he insisted to himself, need not be. Always to be 
encountered here and there were a few souls eager and anx- 
ious to learn, or else no progress would ever be made in this 
world. He found some who needed only intelligent direction. 
It was these few who gave him patience and led him to plead 
for understanding. “The white people must have infinite 
patience, infinite patience in helping my people on. Remem 
ber their heritage. They need a lot of help.” 



134 George Washington Carver 


The wasted lands and wasted lives Mr. Carver saw every- 
where about the country-side cried for assistance. “The virgin 
fertility of our Southern soils and the vast amount of un- 
skilled labor have been a curse rather than a blessing to 
agriculture. This exhaustive system of cultivation, the de- 
struction of forests, the rapid and almost constant decom- 
position of organic matter, together with the problems of 
nitrification and denitrification, the multitudinous insects 
and fungus diseases which are ever increasing with marvel- 
ous rapidity year by year make our agricultural problem one 
requiring more brains than that of the North, East, or West.” 

The \s-ay toward rehabilitation would be long and painful. 


but the goal could be reached. The different methods worked 
out at Tuskegee were interdependent and all acted helpfully 
upon each other. The one-crop system being at the root of 
the matter, some substitute for it should be found, and the 
best way to find it would be through an experiment station. 

Accordingly, his most immediate task was to draw up 
plans for one.' He submitted them to Mr. Washington, who 
submitted them to the School Board of Trustees. One of its 
members drafted a bill which was introduced into the 1896- 
97 session of the State Legislature. On February 18 the bill 
was passed, “to establish a branch Agricultural Experiment 
Station for the colored race and to make appropriations 
therefor— to be located at Tuskegee and run in connection 


with the Nonnal and Industrial Institute. 

The Board of Control — consisting of the president of the 
-Mabama Polytechnic Institute at Auburn and the director 
of the Experiment Station there, the State Commissioner for 
Agriculture, and members of the Institute Board of Trustees 
^^•ho lived in Tuskegee— was charged to “cause such experi- 
ments to be made at said Station as will advance the mter- 
ests of scientific agriculture and to cause such cheimcal 
analyses to be made as are deemed necessary-.” Fifteen him- 
dred dollars out of the agriculture fund was appropriated lor 
equipment and improvement, Tuskegee to furash all ne^_ 
sarv lands and buildings for use of the said Station and 



“My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too” 135 
school. Mr. G. W. Carver was named Director and Consult- 
ing Chemist. 

He could not state explicitly what the Station would do, 
but the Legislature could be assured that no time nor expense 
would be spared to make the work of direct benefit to the 
Alabama farmer. He formulated a plan of attack : education 
in soil conservation, diversification of crops, “live at home, 
finding new uses for farm crops, utilization of native crops. 

Tuskegee stressed the value of community service. The 
students came in the first place because they wanted to get 
learning, but during the many years they spent at Tuskegee 
— and these were indeed many because most progressed 
through the academic courses via the night school — they were 
continually reminded that the educational plant was not 
solely for their individual enrichment, but to lead the race 
foru'ard. It might take six, eight, ten years to reach the 
point of graduation, and during all that time in the field, the 
shop, the classroom, they were subject to the gentle yet 
constant pressure of duty. They were the trustees of knowl- 
edge, and had an administrative duty to spread that knowl- 
edge among the less fortunate who could not go to school; 
they were to help others of the dreary poor toward a happier 
and more healthful way of life. When they finally emerged 
as graduates, many had in their shining eyes dreams of build- 
ing another Tuskegee. They, like their teachers, were conse- 
crated. 

Conmiencement time came around in May, the close of 
the sixteenth year. As in all times and ages parents yearned 
to see the result of their sacrifices and experience a sense of 
pride and of thankfulness that their children would have a 
better future than they. Many came from thirty or forty 
miles away, starting on Tuesday, camping by the wayside, 
and creaking and rattling in early Wednesday morning, 
some before daylight. They took possession of the grounds, 
which became one vast hitching post. They crowded class- 
rooms and shops to touch the strange machinery. They heard 
their children’s voices, saw battalion drill, and applauded 



136 George Washington Carver 


the brass band. A place in the bottom land had been set 
aside where they could sit and eat. It took five hundred 
loaves of bread, an ox, and a hundred gallons of coffee to 


feed them. 

Washington’s commencement addresses were unlike those 
of more orthodox schools, which stressed “success.” Instead, 
he urged, “Go back to the place where you came from and 
work. Don’t waste too much time looking for a paying job. 
If you can’t get pay, ask for the privilege of working for 

nothing.” 

In that spirit many left Tuskegee, the nourishing mother 
of schools, and started offshoots on the old plantations. You 
found a little Tuskegee cropping up at a small settlement, at 
a crossroads, in a shanty, an abandoned farm, a country 
store. These educational outposts of an idea appeared in 
South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, all the way from 
Virginia to Texas. And they began to leaven the economic 


life of the South. 

Though classroom duties ceased during the summer, Mr. 
Carver was not idle. By way of vacation, he co-operated with 
the Alabama Polytechnic Institute in a monograph of the 
fungi of the state. The first issue contained 44 families, 349 
genera, and 1 1 10 species; he hoped to double these the next 
year. He collaborated with the Division of Agrostology of 
the Department of Agriculture at Washington, which was 
endeavoring to secure specimens of all grasses m the Umte 
States; for this collection he sent over a hundred specimens. 

He also collaborated with the Smithsonian Institution m 
connection with the Pan-American Medical Congress. 
Zbers realized that many of the old -lia la v^etaMe 
drues were becoming scarce, thus giving rise to many syn 
tZ substitutes of questionable value and th^ --en- 
deavoring to bring together and catalogue “ 

available data on the medicinal flora of the U-ted S 
Tn this study Mr. Carver discovered a large numb 
iLial drug plants, and an equally large number of non- 
oS, thfch^vere’ recognized only as household remedies 



Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too” 137 

He believed, however, that many of these would become 
official as soon as their medicinal properties had been 
proved. 

In a letter to Ames, August 2, 1897, he reported on his 
activities and concluded. 

These and my other duties have kept me very busy, and take me 
in amongst the lizards, frogs, snakes, ticks, mosquitoes, and “chig- 
gars,” of which there is always a superabundance. But these are all of 
minor moment to the objects in view. I bid you adieu, hoping to 
visit you at some convenient time. 

Respectfully yours, 

G. W. Carver. 

James G. Wilson had said in a letter to a Negro college that 
if young Carver were to go South to teach “I will follow to 
see what I can learn from you people and consult with him 
about the building up of your institution.” Since then, in 
March, he had been called to Washington as Secretary of 
Agriculture, and had already initiated the most comprehen- 
sive and far-reaching agricultural program the United States 
had known. 

When Mr. Carver went to Washington in connection with 
his summer research work, he asked his former teacher to 
give notice to the country of his endorsement of the Tuskegee 
efforts by coming down to dedicate the new agricultural 
building in the faU. Indeed, the Secretary would be only too 
glad to come. 

The first hint to the school at large that its Professor 
Carver was anything out of the ordinary emerged when he 
received the formal letter of acceptance and asked little 
John, son of J. H. Washington and sole office boy, to “take 
this to your uncle.” “Uncle’s” face lit up with joy. And when 
it became generally known that the Honorable James G. 
Wilson, Secretary of Agriculture, was going to make the 
two-day journey to see the Institute and dedicate the Slater- 
Armstrong Building, at Professor Carver’s invitation, the 
latter assumed a new importance. 



138 George Washington Carver 


A tremendous to-do followed, of cleaning and decorating 
and erecting arches laden with hoUy and evergreens and 
moss, of trimming the Pavilion with native grasses, draping 
it with bunting and flags. The boys whose duty it was to keep 
the street lamps trimmed and the chimneys clean polished 
furiously. It was almost Christmas and the fireworks tradi- 
tional to the holiday season in the South were lavishly 
bought. 

One evening in mid-December 1897 Mr. Washington and 
Professor Car\’er, behind a pair of the principal’s swiftest 
horses, drove to Chehaw to meet the eight-twenty fast train 
from the East. This was the first time any representative of 
the Federal Government had taken official cognizance of the 
school, and the white dignitaries of the town were all on 
hand. About ten the carriages were heard approaching the 
campus. A boy whipped up the two black horses, and they 
s^vung under the triumphal arch — Mr. Washington and 
Professor Carv'er and Secretary Wilson in a tall silk hat, the 
only top hat that had ever been seen in those parts. 

The band at the entrance under the arch crashed into 
“Hail to the Chief,” and one of the professors sent up sky- 
rockets. A thousand boys and girls lined the driveways, 
ablaze with dancing lights leaping up into the darkness. It 
is-as the time of year when they were bringing in the sugar; 
the girls waved cane stalks tipped ^vith cotton balls dipped 
in oil, and the boys flourished pine fagots amid yells for 
“Our Booker.” An enthusiastic student wrote: “Our choir! 
How it did sing! The ringing notes of the sopranos har- 
monized most beautifully with the tenor and bass voices. 
The visitors were struck to wonderment, and with mouths 
agape they allowed not one note of the warblers to escape 


being taken in.” 1 1 j 

The next day, though more sober in tone, had a deep 

sitmificancc. It marked the dedication of the first building 

ever erected for the purpose of teaching agriculture to 

colored people-scientific and practical in all branches^ 

Planters, professors, judges, two governors, the clergy, an 



*‘My Knees Got Acquainted with the Hillsides too'* 139 

the press were in the audience of five thousand, or sat in the 
decorated Pavilion to hear and deliver speeches. 

These ended simply but effectively when Washington said 
that agriculture was not, to be sure, just beginning at Tus- 
kegee, but it was beginning in a new way. 



CHAPTER XII 


Are Climbing Jacobis Ladder^^ 


Irofessor car\^r’s title was Director and In- 
structor in Scientific Agriculture and Dairy Science, and he 
had five assistants in farm management, stock raising, truck 
gardening, horticulture, and dairying, respectively. These 
were big-sounding terms, altogether too big for the work 
they had to do, %vhich was to teach young men how to apply 
simple rules of science to farm problems. 

Work had begun for Professor Carver on October 8, 1896, 
with only thirteen pupils and no systematized course of study. 
WTien school closed May 26, 1897, he had enrolled seventy- 
six pupils, three of them “ladies,” and over thirty-six in the 
dairy. He also had a carefully prepared two-year course, 
similar to Iowa’s but modified to suit the different conditions 


and state of scholarship. ^ 

He had spent much time designing the internal arrange- 
ment of the agricultural building. On the first floor were the 
classrooms and on the upper floor were lecture room, her- 
barium, and reading room. The dairy was no longer a ch^ 
under a sweet-gum tree, but had its own equipment m the 

'^TfeThe teachers who came from Eastern 

such as Harvard and Brown, Professor Carver a 

learn some things and learn many new ^ 

selves, to be re-educated. They could not use the 

which they had been trained, because *e "“‘"la f^^ 

student body was not of the same quality. 

girls would not even understand the language in wluch the 

f:achlrs courses had been couched; it might sound 6ne, but 



*‘lVe Are Climbing Jacobis Ladder^’ 14 1 

would be incomprehensible. When Professor Carver pre- 
sented the school with a separator, nobody knew how to put 
it together. So he did. Milking began at three-thirty in the 
morning. A little later he would go in and expostulate, “Now 
I told you not to put the cream back in there! That’s a 
separator — keep it separate!” 

Though the professor’s classroom work was light, his other 
duties were not; he was busier than a hen with one duck. 
The faculty was small, and such an enormous amount had 
to be accomplished. Every little while something new that 
needed to be done would crop up and he ^vould be told, 
“That’s in your department.” Seemingly, if no other place 
could be found, it went in the Agricultural Department. He 
had no idea he was in charge of so much, and at first he was 
a little bewildered. Two years had passed before he had the 
department organized so that he really knew what it in- 
cluded. But he willingly accepted every new task, even going 
into the laundry to show the girls how to turn a collar. 

All the faculty had to do whatever was necessar)'. If a 
department head wanted an improvement, he had to draw 
up his own plans for it. Mr. Logan helped with the music, 
and Mr. T. Owens, Professor of Mathematics, taught the 
Logan children Latin, since it was not included in the cur- 
riculum. Tuskegee came first; even a teacher’s family was 
secondary. The campus group was small and intimate — 
whatever anyone did loomed with tremendous importance. 
A spirit of friendly rivalry pervaded the grounds. Everybody 
was tr) 4 ng to do things, and each wanted to be as good as the 
other. 

Professor Carver was kept hopping with outside activities. 
For some years he collaborated with the chief of the weather 
bureau in Montgomery, measuring rainfall, displaying red 

and white weather flags on a pole, and sending daily observa- 
tions. 

The problem of keeping the little community in good 
health was no small matter, and much of this responsibility 
was turned over to him. Sanitaiy plumbing and the typhoid 



142 George Washington Carver 

carrier \vere equally unknomi in those days, and epidemics 
were a constant menace. As chairman of the Sanitary’ Com- 
mittee, he analyzed samples of water from ^vells all over the 
county. In report after report he announced finding bacillus 
coli, and either condemned the wells or recommended that 
pump and windlass be installed; the rope or chain method 
insured that everyone was practically washing his hands in 
the well when he drew a bucket of water. 

The table scraps from Alabama Hall were dumped by a 
trough into a wagon and carted a\N’ay to the ^voods, where 
they ^vere left for the pigs. But once, when the cattle coming 
back from these ^voods were counted, a heifer was missing. 
Professor Carv’er went out on a search and discovered it in 
the stream, dead. He analyzed the reser\’oir and found 
typhoid, but deduced that carelessness on the part of students 
had killed the heifer; they had thrown dishwater in with the 
scraps, and the alkali in the soap had affected its intestines, 

Ho^vever, the typhoid sent him to his desk in a hurry ; he 
wTote the Surgeon General in Washington, and a public- 
health expert came dowm at once. Other people who lacked 
Professor Carver’s scientific attitude were not in the habit 
of taking such things seriously, and it’s a wonder they hadn’t 
all died in consequence. 

Before the coming of Professor Car\^er the stock also suf- 
fered under the threat of disaster. Once several head of 
cattle had been turned into a pasture in w’hich peach trees 
had been pruned and the dying foliage left on the ^ound. 
His speed in identifying the hydrocyanic-acid poisoning 

saved the herd. ^ .1 ui 

The veterinary advice he had to impart was considerable. 

Because Washington so loved fast horses, W. E. D. Stokes 
had made him a present of a fine Napoleon gray name 
Dexter. One night the student guard heard a noise in the 
stable and came around the comer on the run. Being a 
lumber-headed creature, he blazed away with iotgim. 
Only, instead of any marauder, it was the saddle hoise he 
hit, spattering its face and neck with shot. 





Are Climbing Jacobis Ladder*’ 143 

Mr. Washington sent immediately for Professor Carver 
and anxiously asked for an opinion. To the professor’s way 
of thinking, since the shot were only bird shot and just under 
the skin, it was not necessary to take them out ; the damage 
was not serious; the animal would soon recover. 

However, Dexter was valuable and Mr. Washington was 
very much attached to it. Furthermore, he was not certain 
just how much Professor Carver might know about the mat- 
ter. Accordingly, he sent into town and asked Dr. Ludie 
Johnson, the white M.D., to come out and prescribe treat- 
ment. Not being a veterinarian. Dr. Johnson sought Pro- 
fessor Carver in consultation to find out what he thought. 
Then he went to Mr. Washington and reported, “Just leave 
the shot alone and the horse will recover. Your new man 
knows what he’s talking about. Better do as he says.” 

This happening spread all over town, that a colored 
man from the West had prescribed the same treatment as 
Dr. Johnson, and confidence in Professor Carver began to 
mount. 

A few, however, were still heard to murmur that they 
wouldn’t trust that Yankee. John H. Washington, “J. H.,” 
as he was called, had protested in the first place against his 
brother’s decision to import a man of science. The mind of 
the superintendent of industries had been made up before- 
hand that a scientific agriculturist was unnecessary, and he 
wasn’t going to change it. 

One morning Professor Carver was told that the students 
were having difficulty getting butter to form. 

“What’s the matter with it?” asked J. H. 

I don t know,” returned Professor Carver mildly. “But 
here s a bulletin on making butter.” 

“I’ve read it.” 

“Here, let me have the chum, and I’ll try.” 

Professor Carver worked the chum, and all that resulted 
was a heap of foam— no butter. He was puzzled. “I’ll go un 

^ trouble is ” 

Why go to the bam?” demanded J. H. “The trouble’^ 



144 George Washington Carver 


right here. If you know so much, why don’t you know what’s 
the matter with the butter?” 

Professor Carver was growing irritated at this type of 
obstruction. “If you want me to find out, I’ll have to go to 
the bam. Have you any objection?” 

And away he marched to the barn. 

Presently he marched back again. He was smiling a little 
over the picture of himself as a little boy playing tricks with 
Aunt Sue Carver’s chum so he could go fishing. “I want 
some boiling-hot water,” he stated. This sounded crazy, but 
when it was produced and the chum had been heated, be- 
hold, there was the butter. Then he explained the reason. 
“You’ll have to stop feeding the cows so much cottomeed 
meal,” he said, “if you want butter to form. Even if it is the 
cheapest feed. Cottonseed is rich in stearin, which has a high 
melting point. You can’t get butter by churning in a normal 
atmosphere if you have an excess of fatty acids. 

But J H. was unconvinced and told his brother, We 
don’t need what they call a scientific agriculturist. We need 


a dairyTOan.’’ ^ 

I. H. had been foreman of railroad constmction at Hamp- 

ton and he had little understanding of the man of science, 
nor did he wish to get understanding. Being 
antipathetic to the Carver type of mind, he could 
there was any good in it, and developed a personal antipathy 
toward the individual whose methods he could not compre- 

don’t an ‘expert’ ! All we need is a man who knows his 
business !” 

;Sm:;’i;urrihe hoys .0 put the sheep through a 



^^IVe Are Climbing Jacobis Ladder” 145 

dip and twelve of the ewes have died. That’s what’s the mat- 
ter!” 

Professor Carver was not given to speaking until he had 
his facts marshaled. Silently he went to investigate. 

The boys had used unslaked lime, and the water had shot 
up to the boiling point. Without waiting for it to cool they 
had immediately plunged in the sheep and, after burning the 
first one, had not had sense enough to stop, but put through 
a dozen. Professor Carver was unused to such utter igno- 
rance; he had not taken sufficient account of it and their 
inabihty to follow directions. 

But J. H. went away muttering, “That man Carver 
doesn’t know what he’s doing.” He protested to his brother, 
“You ought to fire him.” 

Washington knew better than to argue with a man who 
would not listen to reasonable argument. “Suppose I did,” 
he returned. “Ever>'one would criticize me for having made 
a mistake. No. I think we’ll keep him.” 

He knew what a valuable person he had. Professor Carver 
had been at Tuskegee less than a year when Washington 
gave a talk at Ames. The local paper stated, “Our only col- 
ored graduate, now three years an alumnus, has already 
achieved distinction in his line of work and has won the 
esteem and re\-erence of all with whom he has come in con- 
tact.” This was essentially true, and its truth ^v'as confirmed 
by Washington, who called him “one of the greatest men 

God ever made. We wish we had half-a-dozen more just 
like him.” ’’ 

The rock on which the school was built was '^servace” ; its 
quality magnetized the air, and few who breathed it could 
escape thereafter. Tuskegee alumni in business for them- 
selves regularly sent money back. This spirit fitted in ^vith 
Profe^or Can^r’s oum psycholog)s and he ^^•ith the spirit. 
U ashmgton would sit at the council table and tell how these 
little sums came in. A graduate might have been able to save 
on^^ five dollars by the end of the year, but he would dispatch 
It back to Tuskegee. Or he would deny himself pleasures, if 



1^6 George Washington Carver 

need be, to make his offering. “If they can do without,” 
thought Professor Car\'er, “why can’t I?” 

The first requirement of a scientist was a laboratory, and 
a scientific agriculturist was no exception. The school was 
\-ery poor. One department might be allowed five dollars, 
another ten dollars, or even twenty-five, but these sums did 
not stretch far. Professor Carver had to make what he 


wanted for his laboratory'. 

He fretted over w'hat he was to do for sandpaper, and 
\vhile he was worrying he lay do\\'n and fell asleep. In his 
dream he entered a big wagon shop, where a man was put- 
ting a tire on a wagon wheel. He walked up to the wheel- 
wright and asked, “Do you know how to make sandpaper?” 
The man answered, “Yes,” but did not offer the explanation; 
he merely continued to stand there working. Finally Profes- 
sor Car^•er said cannily, “FU teU you how I do it.” And he 
went through a process as he guessed it might be. “You id 
all right,” replied the wheelwright, “except you didn t boil 
the sand.” Professor Carver woke up and went to his labom- 
ton', boiled the sand, and the sandpaper was as it should be 
Professor Career liked to make things; he was bom that 
wav But the students didn’t know what to do. “There s no 
n.‘«l to whine, ‘Oh, if I only had so-and-so!’ ” 

“Do it anyhow; use what you find about you. Then he took 
them out with him to scour rubbish heaps for bott es, ja , 
wires, rubber, string, glass. “Equipment is not all in the 

haboratory , but partly in the head of the man 

His equipment was a strange conglomeration, garnered 
ch” V out of junk piles. From nothing you must bui d 



^‘We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” 


147 


piece of string. A cracked china bowl served as a mortar, and 
he used a flatiron to pulverize his material. Zinc sulphate 
was costly, so he picked up the discarded zinc tops of fruit 
jars. He never had to buy a pencil ; when one he had rescued 
was worn so he could not grasp it in his hand, he made a 
holder and gave it more service, down to the last half inch. 

He was ridiculed, of course, and accused of living out of 
trash boxes, but he didn’t care. Small memoranda are still 
in existence! Professor Carver, please let me have seventy- 
five dollars to be returned at earliest convenience. (Signed) 
Booker Washington.” The professor would not have had 
that seventy-five dollars to lend if he had not practiced con- 
servation. Saving the things that others threw away became 
not merely an expedient, but a real matter of teaching con- 
servation by example. 

Saving, however, in itself was not enough; you must have 
order also. He went a step farther. He showed his pupils a 
box of string, saved, to be sure, but muddled and snarled. 
“Thay’ he said, “is ignorance. And this”— holding out a box 
in which each piece was neady tied or rolled into balls— “is 
intelligence.” 


The laboratory work was simple, so that it could be easily 
understood by the students and they could manage the tech- 
nique of analyzing soils to learn which of the fourteen plant 
elements might be lacking, of testing fertilizers and feeds to 
see what made muscular tissue, fat, or milk. In clear lan- 
^age he taught the trinity of relationship between the soil, 

the yant growing on it, and the human being or animal con- 
suming the plant. 


A thorough mastery of the soil is necessary in order to 
keep au of the mineral elements there in proper quantity 
and fom to supply the needs of that particular crop. 

A thorough mastery of economic plant life is equally im- 

composition wiU be all it should be. 

orrfertL,T^ also in 

der that the food eaten will give too per cent nourishment 
at the minimum cost.” 



148 


George Washington Carver 


Farming had been generally unpopular at Tuskegee ; other 
teachers would punish students by making them work at it. 

It ^vasn’t a trade or a profession, just what they had always 
done. ^Vhite people knew trades, but Negroes had always 
farmed, and they wanted to escape from that class. 

In 1899 there arrived at the gates of Tuskegee a big, po^v- 
erful young man who had walked from his home in Georgia. 
He had lied and he had stolen to get there, because get there 
he must. The registrar asked Tom Campbell what he would 
like to do to earn his way. How about farming? More places 
were open in that department than anywhere else. Tom em- 
phatically said, “No!” He had just come off a plantation 
and was trying to get a'way from it. “Then how about agri- 
culture?” “Fd like that fine, said Tom. 

By this simple stratagem Thomas C. Campbell was as- 
signed to Professor Car\'er, and Professor Carver made a type 
of labor the lad had once hated seem attractive. He was able 
to arouse in his students a desire for knowledge of ^vhat agri- 
culture means— keep them interested and delighted and at 
the same time give them useful information. He possessed 
the two essentials of a good teacher-a thorough knowledge 
of his subject and an intuitive sense of how to instill it. One 
of his later assistants said that he had graduated at Cornell 

but had been educated under Carver. 

To all who were not simply clods he was able to impart m 
varying degrees some of his own motivating compulsion, 1 
don’t know, but I’ll find out. 

“You can’t teach people anything,” the professor once re- 
marked “You can only draw out what is m them. Thoug 
hardly a pupU in his classes, with the notable eMeption of 
young Campbell, had more than average intelligence, he 
Lought out the best points of caA, made each feel pro 

of his ability and want to extend it. 

No permit, however, was given them to stop and preen 
rher^elves al any stage of their advancement. He n«d 
parable of the little brown sparrow who 
from the lyrebird, from the peacock, and from the egr 



“We Are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder” 149 

exclaimed, “How fine I am !” “Now you know,” said the pro- 
fessor, “he was not entitled to those feathers. Underneath he 
was still the same little brown sparrow.” 

A natural genius. Mother Necessity, and an unflagging 
grind had produced the Carver phenomenon. He could not 
transfer the first two, but he could help what gifts there 
might be in his students by urging on them the third — indus- 
try. This he was able to do, even though the lackadaisical 
attitude of many of these boys who had grown up in an at- 
mosphere of Southern sloth ran directly counter to his own 
quick habits. He stirred them to action by mild scoldings. 
“Get the drones off you ! Remember,” he was wont to say, 
“the more ignorant we are the less use God has for us.” 

He w^as thoroughly impatient with dabblers. Each student 
must complete what he had started. “I will help you as long 
as you are making progress, but once you decide to quit, I 
will not waste my own time further. And don’t take up any 
of my time with a frivolous excuse. All I want is the thing 
done.” 

He had no patience with “about.” “There are only two 
w^ays: one is right and the other is wrong. About is always 
wrong. Don’t tell me it’s about right. If it’s only about right, 
^en it’s \vrong. If you come to a stream five feet wide and 
jump four and a half feet you fall in and get drowned. You 
might just as well have tumbled in from the other side and 
saved yourself the exertion of the jump.” In botany class he 
held up a sketch of a man’s hand and then a leaf showing 
th:; sunilarity of the human venous system and the plant’s. 
Each boy and girl also was asked to draw a leaf. If it was 
wrong, “Tear it up,” he ordered, and the student would 

have to stand and draw that leaf on the blackboard until it 
was perfect. 

His methods were not those of the other teachers, but his 
c asses were entertaining. One of his characteristic pastimes 
was teachmg his boys how to train the wrinkles in their fore- 
heads. “Always lengthwise in a smile,” he directed, “never 
up and do^^m in a frown. Unless, of course, something should 





150 George Washington Carver 

come to your notice which ought to be frowned upon. Then 
don’t hesitate.” 

It was generally accepted that Professor Carver could 
identify any plant they brought in, whether he had seen it 
before or not, but his entomology class once rashly tried to 
hoodwink him. They produced a bug neatly pinned to a 
piece of cardboard and laid it on his desk. 

“We just found this strange bug. Professor. What is it?” 

He looked long at the curious creature. It had the head 
of a large ant, the body of a beetle, the legs of a spider, the 
antennae of a moth, all ingeniously put together. Finally he 
delivered his pronouncement, “Well, this, I think, is what 
we would call a humbug.” 

He liked pupils to do such things, and was dehghted with 
the imagination that had fathered the hoax. 

He never had to call the roll in botany classes, because 
everybody would be there with hands full of specimens. He 
was at odds, however, with current methods of teaching the 
subject, and with current botanies, which he considered 
were made for botanists, not for students. He himself would 
not give ten cents for the usual course, and the average stu- 
dent hated botany, just hated it. It was too voluminous, be- 
fuddling rather than illuminating, and created a heterogene- 
ous confusion in the mind. He himself had been confused 
when he was studying alone, so he knew what he was talking 
about At Ames he had tried, unsuccessfully, to argue his 
point with Dr. Pammell. The object was to know plants or 
why study it? Instead the student was given a lot of techm- 
cal terms, and when he had learned those he did not really 

know plants, he could not classify them. 

Watch a child, he used to say. Don’t coach it but let it 
alone. It would think in groups, showing that was the natura 
way for the human mind to work. And by following th« 

natural working you were 

a close communion with plants, they would speak to you a^ 
tell vou what you wanted to know. If you observed th^ 
with sufficient attention, you would find that their tin 



'^We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder" 15 v 

guishing characteristics automatically grouped themselves. 
You would know the difference between one group and an- 
other as naturally as a child who saw a couple coming down 
the street knew which was the man and which the woman. 
The child would also see a complexion difference. An Indian 
would go into the dark group, but his straight hair would be 
different from the African’s. This same type of familiarity 
through observation would distinguish plants also. 

Suppose the agricultural student had to stop after learn- 
ing the Latin names of a plant. According to the curriculum, 
entomology did not come until next year, and histology the 
year after. He still did not know how to deal with the pest 
that attacked his peach trees. He should not have to wait 
for the “ologies” but be given the group all in one bite so he 
would know how to grow a peach tree and, at the same time, 
protect it from disease by being familiar with the fungi or 
the pests that were attracted to the peach. In reverse, if he 
were familiar enough with a certain insect, he would know 
what plant it fed upon. 

And why discourage a child by the physical make-up of a 
book? Existing ones lacked bodily proportion; they were 
much too thick for their length and breadth, and most of 
them were an ugly brick red in the bargain. Alongside a 
child was placed a stack of books almost as tall as he was. 
In time he had read all the books and received a degree, but 
he had only hazy ideas about a great number of things. 

Teaching should be in keeping with the books, infinitely 
simpler. 

In fact, all education should be simplified ; the extent was 
too great and the intent too small. The large grass family, to 
which nearly 75 per cent of our food plants belong, was 
supposed to be troublesome. But, according to Professor 
Carver, identification was easy and simple. Every known 
grass had a long bladelike leaf attached to a sheath en^ 
circling a jointed stem; if a plant had those three things it 
belonged in the family. 

After finding out by observation the characteristics of a 



152 George Washington Carve? 

great family, the student could find with comparative ease 
the names of different members of each particular group by 
an association of resemblances and distinct differences. In 
other words, he put them into the great family by common 
characteristics and subdivided into the smaller groups by dis- 
tinct differences. 

Occasionally, Professor Carver lectured on this subject: 
“I say ‘tree’ to you. The tree being one of several thousand 
members of the vegetable kingdom, you have no idea what I 
mean; you are more confused than before I spoke the word. 
The extent is too great. I say oak tree, and immediately 
thousands are shut out. You are now getting information; 
before, the word was just a generality. 

“But you still don’t know what I mean. Why call it oak? 
It has certain qualities; it belongs to the genus Quercus and 
contains the glucoside quercitrin. All oaks contain that, and 
you can split it up and have stains and dyes. Now you are 
beginning to get somewhere ; you have more information. 

“But the extent is still too large. I narrow to white oak. 
There are a hundred or more varieties of oak, but we are 
now dovTi to two ; there are only t^vo white oaks. What is the 
difference? They grow in different localities one upland 
and one bottom. The upland is exceedingly tough and makes 
the best \’ehicles because of its unusual strength and elas- 
ticity. In the bottom, the cells are large, loose, and 
cause they must take in plenty of water. The wood is black 
and fairly tears up in ribbons for making wickerwork and 
baskets. All this time we have been getting more information 
by decreasing the extent and increasing the mt^t. 

Though funds were lacking for publication. Professor Car- 
ver started work on a new type of botany wtth 
title, An Outline for the Study of Economic 
in Agricultural Classes. It would have one ^ ; 

another for shrubs, another for the 
for the farm. Technical terminology would be omit 
much as possible. He himself seldom used ‘he totamcal term 
without the common name ; in fact, that would come first. 



^We Are Climbing Jacob's Ladder" 153 

the student would not ha\'e to be always turning to the glos- 
san’ and so interrupt the train of investigation. He did not 
propose to reject the current system of education but give 
suggestions which educators might adapt and use. Ecology, 
mycolog\\ entomolog)’ — the whole scientific category that 
had to do with plant life might be treated the same way. He 
did not care who did it, Peter Parker or Susan Smith, but 
merely wanted to start the mo\’ement on its way. 

Practical demonstration allied itself to theory in the mind 
of Professor Cancer. The space immediately about the Insti- 
tute buildings being almost treeless, before \-isitors were due, 
teachers and pupils used to go into the woods and cut pine 
branches to stick in the ground. After commencement these 
would die dowm and present a sorry sight. ^Vith the ad\-ent 
of an expert, the time had come for landscaping. Professor 
Cancer was in charge of the grounds, and his first winter had 
set about converting the unsightly campus into a park, grad- 
ing and terracing, and in the spring was ready for planting 
shade trees, shrubs, flowers, grass. 

The grass was a constant source of trouble to him. Being 
an artist on the ground as well as on canvas, he would lay out 
the paths wth an eye to the most harmonious arrangement 
and uith due obser\^ance of the mathematical perspecti\'e 
effects of landscaping. And then students and faculty, in- 
stead of walking where they were supposed to, would di\’e 
straight at their objective regardless of the thin, delicate 
blades of young grass. 

He was growing upset and peevish over this, so he deliv- 
ered one of his lectures to himself. “Why waste time getting 
perturbed and accomplishing nothing? People are going to 
travel in a way that is logical, if they are to get there.” Then 
he sat do^vn and watched the way they ^valked naturally, 
and he put his paths under their feet. Thereafter, he ob- 
ser\'ed with content, they stayed in them. 



CHAPTER XIII 


^’Waj Over Tonder in the Harvest Fields^^ 


Xrofessor carver had come South to be of service 
to the farmers. That was the big thing, and whatever he ac- 
complished was an outgrowth of that impulse and somehow 
must return to it again. The Experiment Station at Tuskegee 
Institute was the pivotal point aroimd which Southern agri- 
culture, insofar as it affected Negroes, revolved. And Ne- 
groes, though they could not control policy, made up nearly 
half the population. Training students who could go forth 
and spread the word was a vital means toward this end, and 
meanwhile kno^vledge, so desperately needed, could be 
scattered through the miles which lay immediately about 
Tuskegee. 

That demonstration is the purest form of teaching was a 
principle completely adhered to by this particular school. 
The results of the experimentation were to be published, as 
the need for them arose, in bulletin form. But bulletins were 
of no value to those who could not read. It was no good put- 
ting the fodder up too high so that the people could not 
reach it. Points must be illustrated from real objects they 
could see and touch. Farmers were urged to send sampl^ of 
soils, fertilizers, and insects, and, most important of all, to 
visit the Station. It was to be an object lesson on view at all 


times. 


The experimentation would be to no purpose unleK the 
Station made a practice of doing things under conchtiom 
similar to those of the farmer. The start was cert^y m ac 
cordance with conditions similar to those of the faimer. 
About twenty acres were set aside, out beyond the agncul- 



^Way Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields'’ 155 


tural building. The land was so poor that a one-horse wagon 
could carry the entire crop of cowpea vines produced by half 
of it. The school had previously tried to grow crops on this 
land and had netted, instead of a profit, a loss of $16.50 an 
acre. 

The Legislative appropriation for the Station being insuf- 
ficient for the work that had to be done, Mr. Washington 
wrote to a big firm asking whether it would donate several 
hundred pounds of fertilizer for this worthy purpose. The 
company replied, “We sympathize with your desire for ex- 
perimentation on Southern soils, but we want to be frank 
with you: we are convinced there is only one colored man 
who is capable of conducting such a scientific experiment, 
and he, unfortunately, is in Iowa.” 

Mr. Washington responded triumphantly, “We have him 
right here, and he is to conduct the experiment.” The Station 
received the fertilizer. 


The twenty acres were divided into plots, and crops were 
planted. The students did the work, but Professor Carver 
spent much of his time there overseeing every movement, 
having them measure carefully, teaching them to follow di- 
rections precisely, and watching progress with anxious care. 
Up and down Betsy the rhythmic ox plodded, with the boys 
trudging after her. “Plow deep,” he directed, “plow deeper. 
Plow deep while the sluggards sleep.” 

Professor Carver looked at the light gray, sandy, upland 
soil underlined with red and yellow clay which outcropped. 
In spite of its hopeless appearance,” he decided, “this soil 
can be redeemed.” He placed it among the most responsive 
in the United States, the fertility of which could be main- 
tained with little or no cash ouday, simply by curbing waste. 
btUl there was no money for fertilizer, and the Station could 
not continue to depend on donations. Nor could the farmer, 
n any event, the principle was wrong. The waste of animals 
constituted excellent fertilizer, but these farmers had so few 
^mals. Orgamc waste of some sort, however, was available 



156 


George Washington Carver 


While on one of his tours of trash heaps, to see what he 
might sah'age for his laboratory, Professor Carver discov- 
ered a splendid pumpkin \dne having seven runners thirty- 
seven feet long by actual measurement, and loaded wth fine 
pumpkins, growing from the center of what appeared to be 
tin cans. This was the campus dumping ground, because the 
terrain was so badly washed it seemed useful only as the 
source of an occasional load of sand when one was needed 
for plastering. 

A pumpkin seed had found its way into this pile of what 
is generally regarded as ^vorthless rubbish, and Professor 
Car\'er immediately seized upon this as a perfect object les- 
son on the \'alue of organic waste as fertilizer. The piece of 
land ^\■as plowed, harrowed, leveled up, and planted in white 
silver-skin onions, cantaloupes, watermelons, Irish potatoes, 
and com. Then he waited to see how they grew. 

At the same time and for the same purpose a compost 
pile was started. He had a pen built, and in it was piled all 
the organic waste from the campus in the form of paper, 
leaves,^ rags, grass, weeds, street sweepings— anything, in 
fact, that would decay quickly. This layer was covered over 
^vith rich earth from the ^voods and swamps, and when the 
^vhole \vas properly rotted it Avas apphed to the wasted acres. 

Another means of enriching the soil tvas to plant Legunu- 
nosae, the second largest family of seed plants— four hm- 
dred and tu entv genera with seven thousand species. Ihe 
weak stems and butterflylike flowers of these pod bearers 
made them seem particularly decorative, but ineffectua . 
Actuallv they were about the hardest-workmg plants M 
others fed upon the nitrogen in the soil, which cost 
farmer who could pay for it seventeen cents a pound to re- 
place. But the pod bearers, such as vetch, peas, beans dm 
krs and pcanms, had the power, unique among plants, to 
make the soil richer, by reason of their growth upon it. rather 

'’'Thercould extract nitrogen from the air 

Uic »n. The roots were studded with little swellings caU^ 



^^fVay Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields” 157 

nodules, the cells of which contained bacteria that could, 
by a process of symbiosis (the more or less permanent united 
life of certain animal and vegetable organisms rendering 
mutual service to each other) fix air nitrogen to make it 
available as plant food. From the roots, fixed nitrogen was 
released into the soil ready for the next hungry plant. 

Certain of these Leguminosae would also afford valuable 
additions to the animal dietary. In the desire for something 
new and novel in the way of forage plants Professor Carver 
started experimentation with various members of this family. 

In ’96 there was no crimson clover anywhere in the 
county, nor for many counties roundabout. He planted this 
and the cowpea and hairy vetch. In ’97 he secured a pint of 
velvet-bean seed which yielded fully three pecks. He ex- 
perimented with the peanut, which was no more considered 
a farm crop than was parsley; the children liked to eat 
peanuts, so a few families had a few vines. 

Developing agriculture means keeping an eye out for new 
things. The soja pea, now known as the soybean {Glycine 
soya), the little honorable plant and the main dependence 
of China for its food supply, was said to have been brought 
back by Commodore Matthew C. Perry, but nothing had 
been done about it in this country. This, too. Professor 
Carver planted. 

He might exert every effort to educate away from the one- 
crop system, but the efforts of one man could make little 
headway against the Southern economic system and the 
complex of social institutions bound up in it. Farmers were 
in business and, theoretically, should be able to make a 
profit, as did any other businessmen. The immediate need 
for cash outweighed the long-time need for conservation. 
They simply had to keep on growing cotton. 

The best the professor could do was persuade as many 
as came within his orbit to include a subsistence crop with 
their cash crop in order to lift their general li\dng standards. 
To better his domestic economy and the health of his family, 
the farmer should have a more balanced farm — grow a vege- 



158 George Washington Carver 


table garden, raise livestock and chickens for his ovvn use, 
perhaps have some left over for sale. 

Meanwhile, Professor Carver could help increase the farm- 
ers’ income a little by showing them how to raise better cot- 
ton as their cash crop; they need not keep on producing 
two-bolls-to-a-stalk, bumblebee cotton — a bumblebee had 
hardly to lift his wings to reach the big pink blossoms. 

It was not enough for Professor Carver to grow good cot- 
ton, he must always be making experiments, and crossbreed- 
ing was his specialty. By 1909 he had developed four new 
varieties — two types of long-staple upland, one wilt-resist- 
ant, and another especially prolific with a medium staple, all 
particularly adapted to the light, sandy soils of Macon 
County. He dispensed packets of seed to farmers who wanted 
it and issued leaflet No. 16, instructing them how to cross 


and fertilize by hand, using the recently developed Russell's 
Big Boll (male) and long-staple Sea Island (female), the 
hairs of which were easily detached from the seed. ^ 

One of the most remarkable features of the Station was a 
crop of cotton originated and improved by Professor Carver, 
the yield being considerably more than a bale an acre. One 
bush would carry 275 bolls of enormous size, frequently four 
at one joint on an ordinary stalk. All without the use of a 
single pound of commercial fertilizer. ^ 

Almost any agriculturist coming that way sought him an 
his advice. The Colonial Secretary of the German Empire, 
accompanied by a cotton expert of his department spent 
several days at Tuskegee to observe the Carver hybrid, and 
asked for three graduates to go to the African West Coast to 
introduce it. .^d a man from Queensland, Austraha, took 
back some seed which he passed on to his government. In 
1906 he wrote Professor Carver that it was being success- 

fully grown all over his country. 

The puzzled local farmers could not understand how 
fessor CaiA^er, who had never seen cotton growing be ore 
could beat them raising it when they had spent ^ 
in the fields. Patiently he explained that the prmcip 



*Way Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields* 159 

plant growth were the same always. This plant that he was 
looking at needed certain things; the soil he was looking at 
had certain physical and chemical constituents. Very well, 
he would make the right adjustment between them. 

Professor Carver found it practically impossible for the 
Station to tell with any degree of accuracy just what de- 
mands would be made upon short or no notice at all. For 
this reason he kept open house, as it were, and held himself 
in readiness to give advice. If the farmers could not come 
themselves, they sent in their samples: 

Mr. G. W. Carver. Dear Sir, You will find the inclosed packages 
the soil of diifrent farms whom desire to have their soil anelized. We 
send it this way for convient to each other, yours Mectninate. 

Another would read : 


Prof. G. W. Carver, 


I am today mailing you one quart of water from my well. Please 
analyze this water for me considering first the health of my f amily 
and then the wealth of it. 

I am also sending you one pint of earth from the well (No. i). 
Number two that creek land and number three hill land. 

Please advise me what kind of fertilizer to use on numbers two 
and three. 

I am yours obligingly, 

P.S. I am also enclosing a little bag of coal, supposed to be coal 
which came out of the weU. Remember I am the one that brought 
you a rock last year that came out of the well. 


He would reply with the results of the Meisch and per- 
nmganate tests on the water, directions for cleaning the 
weU, adv^e compost for the land or give the proportions of 
commCTcial fertilizer, and state that the coal, though vary- 
ing m Its purity, was a fairly good sample of cannel. 

the farmers were unable to write, he encouraged them 
0 come m^^^d bring their problems. He reported to the 
pimapal: Yesterday a man rode five miles in the cold 
dnzzh^ ram and caUed me out of church to prescribe for 
his ox that was at home Very sick.’ A few days before, a man 



i6o George Washington Carver 


brought his horse six miles here for treatment. Last summer 
a lady rode twelve miles twice a week in order to take lessons 
on buttermaking and the care of milk.” 

Advice to individuals was important, because individuals 
made up the group, but the larger the group that could be 
reached the better. The Station had been established early 
in ’97 and the plots planted in the spring. By fall a new 
project was ready to begin operation. The farmer and his 
wife \\-ere to have their day in school, and it was to be called 
the Farmers’ Institute. 

Thereafter, farmers from fifteen or twenty miles distant, 
but chiefly from Macon County, attended the Farmers’ In- 
stitute e\ erv third Tuesday in the month, all the year round. 
There were usually about seventy-five in all — not, perhaps, a 
very large number speaking in terms of population, but each 
constituted a little nucleus of better fanning in his o\nti neigh- 
borhood. If one grew taller com than another, his neighbor 
would \vant to know why, and they also would try to follow 
the practices learned at Tuskegee. 

First came short and simple talks in the agricultural builds 
ing, couched in language these unlettered folk could under- 
stand. The professor explained the need for rotation of crops: 
no two plants feed exactly alike; some are deep feeders, some 
shallo^v; some heaxy, some light. Txvo deep or txvo heavy 
should not follow each other. To demonstrate his meanmg 
he had cut sections partly away from bamboo canes and 
filled them with different types of soils which the farmers 

could see for themselves. j » i, M 

“In the South we are sinning against the land, he sai . 
“We are letting it go unnourished from the waste of w^h- 
outs and erosions and are not protecting it. In return it is 
punishing us.” Then he took the farmers to show them a 
^ly cut twenty-five feet into the earth, just from the drip 


of a barn. . 1 .,11 

After the lesson in dairying or poultry keeping they an 

walked in a body to the Station plots where they could 

amine simple produce actually growing out of the same km 



Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields” 


i6i 


of soil as theirs. No matter how scientific the investigation 
may have been, the discussion \vas practical. Professor Car- 
ver bent down and picked up a handful of soil; he opened 
his hand and the earth fell apart. “You see,” he said, “when 
it’s like that, it’s all right to cultivate it. But if it sticks to the 
plow, then it’s too wet. The air can’t get in, and the plant 
won’t have anything to feed on unless it gets air.” 

He lifted up the root of the cowpea to show how it was 
studded with nodules, like a string of beads. Of the experi- 
mental legumes, at the end of the first two years the cowpea 
had stood the test best; its relation to the soil physically, 
mechanically, and chemically was the most satisfactory. The 


roots penetrated deeply, thus loosening the soil. They de- 
cayed rapidly and formed valuable absorbents, in which up- 
land soils were deficient. The cowpea would return twenty- 
five dollars’ worth of nitrogen to each acre, and it was an 
excellent food for man and beast. Vigorously he advocated 
that every farmer grow some and prepared a bulletin con- 
taining eighteen ways of cooking them. 

March was the season of forest fires, when the sky was 
illuminated by night and the brightness of the sun was 
obscured by day. Preparatory to April planting the farmers 
burned the weeds and dried stalks of the year before, and, 
through carelessness, fires spread to forests. Thus the chain 
of desolation was lengthened. 


Professor Carver pointed off across the fields toward the 
haze of drifting smoke. “Look,” he said. “There goes de- 
struction riding the wind— millions of dollars going up in 
smoke. These poor soils need as much humus as they can get 
and a great deal more. The habit of burning off the fields 
and wood lots is one of the greatest curses that has ever 
Southern farmer. Our forests and swamps 
should be cherished. If you bum your fields you are burning 
your fertilizer and will have to buy it. Turn it under instead 
Don t continue to foUow this foolish practice any more than 
you would bum off the outside bills of a roll of greenbacks.” 

There before the farmers w^as the proof of the professor’s 



1 62 George Washington Carver 

preaching: the land that had been used for dumping 
prox ed to be one of the show places on the ground. There 
before them was a twenty-pound cabbage and the biggest 
onion that had ever been grown. Many of the onions meas- 
ured seven inches in diameter. The watermelons and canta- 
loupes were of a fine, marketable size, abundant and very 
prolific; the vines remained green and continued to bear 
longer than in any other place. The Irish potatoes grew large 
and smooth with an enormous yield. 

The loss from the Station the first year was $2.50 an acre. 
The next year also the ledger read $2.50, but in black in- 
stead of red. In seven years, with no commercial fertilizer 
whatever, it profited $75 an acre. Production jumped rap- 
idly from 40 to 266 bushels of sweet potatoes an acre, and 
from about a third of a bale of cotton to the acre to a bale 
and a quarter an acre. 

The minutes of a near-by Farmers’ Institute meeting tes- 
tified to the heartfelt interest and progress being made. May 
27, 1904, opened with singing “Father, I Stretch My Hands 
to Thee.” There followed a Scripture lesson, prayer, and an- 
other song, “Alas ! and Did My Saviour Bleed.” Then came 
a little talk on “How and why we grow cowpeas.” One 
farmer said why he grew them was: first, because they are 
good for man; second, good for stock; third, good for re- 
building and enriching the land where grown. He said fur- 
ther that he could pay his teacher better. 

After another religious folk song, “We Are Climbing 
Jacob’s Ladder,” the Reverend Huggins of Rising Star com- 
munity reported meetings held regularly from two to four 
times a month; vegetables were now grown plentifully from 
January to January. Mrs. Susan Johnson reported for the 
mothers and children. Besides discussing conditions, etc., 
they were taught how to sew, cook, and make shuck hats. 

Mrs. Tatum of Liberty Hill said that the women were 
ahead of the men; they had in the treasury $6.25 for sim- 
mer school; for her part she had sold $4.00 worth of rutaba- 
gas. Mr. Hunt brought some fine onions; he said that he 



‘"'fVay Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields'' 163 

worked his garden mostly on moonshine nights while it was 
cold. Mr. Philpot of Baptist Cluster said that a good bit of 
his cotton was affected by the cold. Professor G. W. Carver 
of the Experiment Station advised all to observe their crops 
closely and, if not in good condition now, replant or plow 
up the entire crop and plant over as he had done. 

Mr, Howard of Oak Grove reported that they had a two- 
acre school farm planted, had already supplemented one 
month to their school after government term was out, and 
were going to supplement two for this summer. Mrs. Susie 
Howard said that they had paid $10.10 out of their moth- 
ers’ treasury and decided that their teacher should not go 
unpaid, neither should she work for less than other teachers. 

Pinkston Crossroad was going to build a schoolhouse this 
summer. Oak Grove had a nice sweet-potato patch and was 
planning to buy a cooking stove by next term. Hickory Grove 
Club assisted mothers in buying three wall lamps and nine 
shades. This club also worked the cotton patch and had 
raised $2,58. The club from Solomon’s Chapel was com- 
posed of school children and had $1.00 in the treasury. 

After singing “Let the Heaven Shine on Me” the meet- 
ing adjourned, to be called again the third Tuesday of the 
following month. 

To bring together the accomplishments of the farmers and 
show what progress was being made, gradually there evolved 
the idea of a fair. The first of these was held in ’98 in a cor- 
ner of the Pavilion, called by courtesy the Macon County 
Fair, because the produce was brought chiefly by the farm- 
ers of Macon County who had attended the Farmers’ In- 
stitute. 

The fair started from small beginnings. At first the entire 
thmg could have been carried in a two-horse wagon, except 
or one white ox, two milch cows, a few hogs, two mules, and 
three horses which made up the exhibit of livestock. But 
each fall of the year thereafter they gathered in the old bat- 
talion ground, fanners with samples of their crops, and the 
women with quilts and canned goods, needlework and 



164 George Washington Carver 

home-cured meat. The town whites began to take part, at 
least as much because it was good business as through neigh- 
borliness. The Macon County fairs grew and they grew 
until the school was asked to join the state fairs at Mont- 
gomery'. In 1903 crowds gathered about the booth in the 
capitol under the stairway to the right ^vhere Professor Car- 
ver had his exhibit of dried foods and soja peas and demon- 
strated the value of sweet potatoes and cowpeas. 

The Farmers’ Institute meetings rose to a mighty crescendo 
in February at the time of the Farmers’ Annual Conference. 
To call them together word was sent through the county, 
though all were welcome from wherever they might come. 
On oxcarts and mule wagons, stretching out a quarter of a 
mile, they rode in the night before and during the early 
morning—handkerchief-headed aunties and gingham- 
gowmed young women; old men smoking their corncobs, 
young men in their best, though often their coats were many- 
patched ; excited children \\ith big eyes gleaming from their 
dark little faces. At such times the roads leading to Tus- 
kegee were never empty and the dust never setded. 

A delicious aroma of roast pig drifting on the campus air 
met them, and light glowed red from the barbecue pit, 
where student cooks performed all night at the savory task 
of basting. In the battalion ground many of the farmers, too, 
were employed all night twining paper ribbons on the spokes 
of their ^vagon wheels, setting candy-striped poles m the cor- 
ners fastening on their tallest stalks of com, whitewashing 
a paled sty in which would ride a majestic hog. 

In the morning they gathered outside the Pavihon, whic 
had been freshly sprinkled with sawdust from Ae mill an 
decorated with branches of longleaf pine, partly to enliven 
die bare drab boards and also to fulfill the purely practical 
nuroose of keeping out the weather, February weather being 
S^From the smooth needles rain sHd quickly and 
soundlesslv to fall with a soft plunk to the earth. 

And then came the parade, ending at ^ 

The new chapel, just across the way from the Slater 



Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields^* 165 

strong Building, had taken a long time in the building. Over 
a million bricli had to be fired, the oak floor sawed, and the 
pews and cornices designed and carved from the trees on 
the place. The students had laid it off with a level they had 
made themselves — boys from sixteen to twenty, the young- 
est, not even the best in the school. If the carpenter asked for 
skilled labor the principal would say, ‘T believe you can do 
it yourselves,” and with that faith they went ahead. 

Tuskegee was not like Hampton, where instruction by 
white experts was available; the people of Tuskegee had to 
train themselves to train each other. Washington wanted no 
outside help on the chapel; it was to be a living thing ex- 
pressing the spiritual fervor and material accomplishment 
of the school. To have it a beacon in the county a dynamo 
was installed by the students — their own little plant, which 
made it the first building to be electrically lighted. The whole 
campus loved that chapel, and to the country folk it was the 
New Jerusalem. 

Washington would mount the platform and give a talk: 
own your own land, rotate your crops, improve your stock ; 
I notice too many razorbacks; get rid of those. He told them 
about “Old Jim Hill,” who used to grow two bolls on a cot- 
ton stalk; now he grew fourteen, and his neighbors accorded 
him the automatic respect of addressing him as Mr. James 

mi. 

Then he stopped and called on the farmers to tell what 
they were doing to better their land and their homes and, in 
the process, themselves. “What about you, Mr. Jones? You 
have been coming to the Institute regularly. What have 
you accomplished this year?” 

Mr. Jones stood up. The type of farmer he represented 
was, by ordinary, a serious even a solemn individual. His face 
was set Indianlike in vertical lines, and he seldom smiled. 
He was imbued with evangelistic zeal and earnestly tried 
to fulfill the school behest: when you learn one thing you 
must pass it on; the strong must help the weak. He had 
“hardly words to express” himself, but he longed to try: if 



1 66 George Washington Carver 

he had ever mortgaged anything, then Jonah had swallowed 
the whale; his wife had never greased her mouth with a 
piece of mortgaged meat since they were married. 

At twelve came recess and dinner, and the barbecued oxen 
and hogs and sheep were washed down with gallons of coffee 
and red lemonade. Mr. Washington presided in a paternal 
fashion, though he could only look on at the feast. His diges- 
tion had become uncertain, the result of the usual bad dietary 
in youth coupled with the present nervous strain of an ex- 
cess of work and responsibility. 

In the afternoon the guests traipsed about the campus. 
They flocked around the stand Professor Carver had set up. 
There on the spot he was cooking tomatoes, offering them 
for his audience to taste ajid eating some himself to prove 
they were not poisonous. Before interested house\vives he 
demonstrated the eighteen different ways of cooking cow- 
peas, all of which they could carry out themselves, to a run- 
ning accompaniment of words. “In painting the artist at- 
tempts to produce pleasing effects through the proper blend- 
ing of colors. The cook also must blend her food in such a 
manner as to produce dishes which are attractive, whole- 
some, and appetizing. Harmony in food is just as important 
as harmony in colors.” 

The visitors wandered in and out of the buildings ^d 
through the Experiment Station grounds, inevitably creating 
a certain amount of havoc. But though they overran his 
young la^\'ns and bruised his infant shrubs. Professor Car\^er 
did not flinch. “The place belongs to the people, and not to 
us,” said \Vashington, and the professor concurred. “This is 
the only time they are allowed freedom to do as they please 
and have a good time. Let them tear up the campus if they 

want to.” 

They did, and it took a week to clean up afterward, but, 
as Samuel Johnson said, Gratitude is the fruit of great cul 
tivation; you do not find it among gross people.” The Negro 
farmers of Macon County showed their gratitude m words 
of praise and wonder, and in deed also. Though they 



'Way Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields'' 167 

crowded in numbers of eight or nine thousand, and no re- 
straints of any sort were imposed upon their merrymaking, 
not one instance of disorderly conduct occurred. 

At seven or eight in the evening all climbed into their 
carts and wagons and buggies again and started, many of 
them on another all-night ride, for home, the children curled 
up around their feet like puppies, the little ones in their 
mothers’ laps. 

^ At Commencement people from the North would be in- 
vited down and would be taken on a Sunday tour through 
the countryside. They had a stake in Negro progress or 
would, it was hoped, have a stake if they could see for what 
purpose their money, if they gave it, would be spent— ob- 
serve what money could accomplish in the way of salvaging 
human waste. ^ 


Naturally Washington wanted his people to appear at 
their best, so he sent out advance couriers. “If you can’t 
paint, whitewash; if you don’t have whitewash, we will sup- 
ply it; if you are pressed for time and can’t whitewash all 
your house, whitewash the front.” In politics you would call 
It pump priming, but it was a start in the direction of beau- 
ti ymg because, in the fervor of getting ready, some little 
residue would be left and carry the people through to the 
next tune. The place looked so much better when it was 
clewed up that they would make an effort to keep it so. 

Washington was a showman. Faculty and guests rode in 
style with a driver to each carriage, and he had relays of 
horses stationed along the route. This was well planned for 

f churches 

and hundreds were gathered with their eggs 

and hams and canned goods already out on display 

Lni ^ were always blowing out. Professor Carver 

bar and in a little 

bag and woidd go round back of the church and puU out a 
clean one before he made his appearance ^ 



1 68 George Washington Carver 


May Commencement was, in many respects, similar to the 
Farmers’ Conference, though its emphasis was concentrated 
more on school activities. 

They were alike in another way — the crowds became so 
great they could not spread out over the grounds; both 
school and farm had to be brought to the spectators. The 
principle of visual demonstration was appHed to every 
aspect. 

Commencement dramatized education. It was not some- 
thing academic and far away, but close to the parents’ own 
daily life. On the platform of the chapel they could see a 
rniniature engine to which steam had been piped, or a piece 
of a brick wall being laid. A cow was led up onto the plat- 
form and milked there ; a horse was shod and its teeth filed. 
An emergency case was carried in for treatment by a student 
nurse. Students went through the process of making a loaf 
of bread, as though it were in slow motion; the dough was 
mixed, kneaded, and put in the oven, and another was taken 
out, brown and smelling richly. One girl cut out a dress, 
fitted it on a model, sewed it up, and the model walked off 


wearing the dress. 

At the 1905 Commencement the big news was that the 
biggest celebration of all would be held next October. Presi- 
dent Theodore Roosevelt was going to visit the Institute. 

President McKinley and all his cabinet except one had 
paid a call in 1898 on their way to Atlanta to celebrate 
Peace Jubilee at the end of the Spanish-Amencan War. T e 
school had prepared floats drawn by horses, mules and oxen 
showing its past and present, triumphal arches of flags and 
fruits of the fields had been erected, and studenK agm 
waved stalks of sugar cane tipped with open bolls ' 

But somehow that event did not have the 
because President Roosevelt was an acknowledg 
wisher of Negroes and would extend himself to t e utmos 

tn heln them on their upward way. 

His^friendship with Booker Washington had begun some 
time betoe the assassination of McKinley in September 



'‘IVay Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields” 169 

1901, which had hoisted him into the presidency. He had 
immediately wished to consult with Washington regarding 
the appointment of Negroes to office and, since he could not 
leave, had asked Washington to the White House — two sim- 
ple men meeting to talk over common problems at the place 
and time most convenient to both. The storm of protest over 
a Negro dining in the White House had been startling to 
both, and W ashington’s life had been threatened because he 
had dared to “step out of his place.” At the Institute the 
older men stayed up at night and the guards were doubled. 
The children were aware of the excitement in the air, but 
faculty parents made it a point never to discuss the race ques- 
tion where they could overhear it. All that had been tacitly 
forgotten now, and the town was agog over the President’s 
contemplated visit. 

His time would be short and, since he could not possibly 
cover the grounds, it was decided to put the school on wheels 
and let it pass in panorama before him on the reviewing 
stand. A boy stood at the gate whipping the horses to make 
them go by the stand at a run ; if they should happen to tip 
over they could just stay tipped over. 

Riding the floats were students carrying on the school 
activities just as they would do in the classroom or at the 
farm: girls and boys ginning and baling cotton and making 
butter by old and new methods ; girls fashioning brooms and 
baskets, stuffing mattresses and upholstering furniture, dress- 
ing chickens, or sewing uniform hats, girdles, and collars of 
“Alice blue” silk to honor their guest; boys treating a cow, 
spraying fruit trees and pruning, fitting valves and unions for 
steampipes, or setting type and operating a printing press; 
tailors sitting cross-legged stitching imiforms. 

Afterward Roosevelt walked to the principal’s house 
trough the grounds which, due to Professor Carver’s untir- 
ing efforts, were beginning to show considerable improve- 
mmt. The lawns were covered with Bermuda grass, the 
foliage had grown up before the chapel, and here and there 
were soft, rich masses of pansies and verbenas. Just before 



1 70 George Washington Carver 

he left, the President telephoned Mrs. Roosevelt to thank 
her for his birthday message — and how was Quentin? 

Both Lewis Adams, the ex-slave, and George Campbell, 
the ex-slaveowmer, the two who might almost be called the 
founding fathers of Tuskegee Institute, died the same year, 
1905, but many other friends had come to carry on the work 
they had initiated. 

Negro literacy at the time of the Civil War was about 3 
per cent; by 1910 it was nearly 70 per cent, but this was not 
enough. The Southern states lacking both money and the 
desire to provide adequate educational facilities for rural 
colored children, Washington himself wanted to build experi- 
mental schools that would teach the little ones not only their 
A B Cs, but also how to live. 

Rising Star, a few miles from Tuskegee, had become such 
a model school. It was the well-kept home of the teachers, 
and recitations were held in the living room. By spending the 
day in such surroundings, the children learned the lessons of 
ever)day life, including cleanliness, and these lessons they 
carried to their own frustrated homes. 

Anna T. Jeanes, a Quaker of Philadelphia, gave Washing- 
ton money to establish more schools, and even the impersonal 
but invaluable General Education Board of the Rockefeller 
Foundation grew out of this movement which had its incep- 
tion at Tuskegee. 

Washington had early interested Julius Rosenwald in the 
subject of Negro education. Rosenwald once said he had 
simply fallen into a business that had money-making possi- 
bilities, and he modestly attributed his enormous success 
with the house of Sears, Roebuck and Company to luck and 
not to ability. It became his function to give, and thereby 
receive, happiness from this money. Having seen the miracle 
that education had performed in the person of Booker T. 
Washington, he wanted to do what he could to help the 

Negro, as a race, out of the ditch. 

Some five thousand schoolhouses now stand as a monu- 
ment to this endeavor and provide educational facilities for 



'Way Over Yonder in the Harvest Fields'' 


171 


40 per cent of the Negro school children in the country dis- 
tricts of the South. Toward these white-painted beacons 
with trim windows and tidy furnishings, standing out star- 
tlingly against a succession of weathered shacks, the mother 
must start early in the morning and hurry the children to 
get them on yonder to the teacher. A school bus carrying the 
white children clatters by, but the little Negro children, bare- 
foot or clumping in some adult’s castoff shoes, must trudge 
the many miles to and fro on foot. At least they are on their 
way, and the goal of most is Tuskegee Institute. 

The local press took cognizance of the Institute whenever 
notables arrived, and they had a battery in 1906: President 
Charles W. Eliot of Harvard; William Howard Taft, Secre- 
tary of War; Andrew Carnegie, for whom the shoemaking 
department made a pair of golf shoes, a token exchange for 
the white-pillared library he had given the school a few 
years before; Paul Lawrence Dunbar, who contributed the 
Tuskegee song which was set to music by N. Clark Smith, the 
musical director of the Institute. 


That same year also came J. E. Kwegyir Aggrey of Africa. 
Aggrey w^as greatly impressed with the work being accom- 
plished at Tuskegee and talked about establishing such a 
school m Africa. He longed to take Professor Carver with 
hrni “A man like him, with ample facilities, could ^vork 
vvon ers in Africa. Verily my people are sleeping on acres 
of diamonds.” Professor Carver could not leave his chosen 
sphere, but Aggrey did eventually carry out his ideas in the 
Achimoto Umversity College in the Gold Coast Colony. 

Like Washington, Aggrey sought not an amalgamation of 

tts^rt" ^ of 

the black and t ^ 



CHAPTER XIV 


Tell It on the Mountain^' 


(Flopping along the dusty Alabama roads went 
a light wagon piled high with tools and boxes and jars and 
drawn by a mule with leisurely flopping ears. It was Friday 
evening when classwork was done, and Professor Carver had 
boxed up demonstration material and started out to hold his 
customary meeting of farmers way out in the sticks. Some- 
times teachers from other departments begged to be allowed 
to go; it was a new experience for them to visit the desolate 


places in the swamps. 

They jogged along through the loblolly pines, fording the 
branches; often the only drinking water was from these 
muddy streams. The dwarf forests of dry sticks which 
marked last year’s cotton fields could not hold toge^er the 
nourishing topsoil, and winter storms had taken their toU— 
washing, eroding, leaching, laying bare the subsoil, whic 
might have significance to the geologist but could not feed 
the farmer’s family. In an occasional hollow a bit of cane 
flashed startlingly green-cane for sweetener which would 
make up one of that diet-restricting triumvirate of meat, 
meal, and molasses. 

One way to quiet the indeterminate migration of Southern 
Negroes was to build up again their fundamentaUy soimd 
desire to own their own homes. The advisability of thus In- 
coming stockholders in the body corporate was constantly 
held up before the families with whom Professor Ca^er 
came in contact : they should not buy buggies unul they had 
bought land. They should save five cents each wortog y 
and^t it where they couldn’t get it agam until a year was 



^‘Go Tell It on the Mountain’^ 


m 

up; then they would have $15.50, enough for three acres 
and a nest egg of fifty cents for the next year. In 1907, when 
cotton was fifteen cents a pound and going higher, he urged 
them to use the extra money to buy land. The effect of 
ownership was immediate and striking in creating self- 
respect and stability. 

One home in Reeltown stood out in marked contrast to 
most of the rickety, forlorn cabins; though not beautiful, it 
had a vegetable garden. Anyone could tell that this farmer 
was an owner, not a tenant. Professor Carver pulled up the 
mule and swung his long legs to the ground. “Good evening 
Mr. Baker.” 


Lawd ave mercy ! Look here, Sally. It’s Perfesser Carver 
come with his black box to hunt yarbs. Come right in, Perfes- 
ser, and sit a piece. Rest yo’ hat?” 

The professor made everybody his friend. Some said if 
Jesus Christ was coming it was “just like Perfesser Carver 
coming ; he was a real lovin’ man.” 


“Did you plant cotton again this year, Mr. Baker?” 

“No, Perfesser, only twenty-five acres. Yo’ said it wa’n’t 
good fer de Ian’ to grow jes’ one t’ing all de time. De res’ Ah 
got in co’n an’ oats an’ a li’l bitta rye an’ sweet ’taters an’ 
peanuts. Now M’ll tell yo’ de truf. When Ah come to dis 
cummumty white fo’ks tol’ me Ah cain’t make a livin’. But 
Ah plowed deep an’ went in de woods an’ raked up oak leaves 
an’ swamp muck— mah ol’ marster knew about barnyard 
manure an’ leaves an’ muck lak yo’ do. An’ when mah co’n 
come knee high, it was de purtiest color. Ah done jus’ lak yo’ 
tol me. Now what’s dat t’ing yo’ got dere?” 

It’s a wire chicken coop. I brought it for you to keep, but 
at e meeting tomorrow I’ll show everybody how to set hens 
and have good luck with them.” 


Ah tol ^ de folks yo’ was cornin’ to mah house and 
make t^ about how we ought to Hve. Ef dey do lak yo’ 
^ay benefit by it. Some say yo’ know more’n God 


With great pride Mr. Henry C. Baker, bom 


a slave, took 



’74 George Washington Carver 

their guest out-of-doors to prove how he and his wife had 
themselves benefited by the professor’s teaching. He was 
ahvays urging the people to drink more water; this was a 
problem because usually their source of supply was so far 
a^vay it was tiresome to haul it to the cabins. But the Bakers 
had their own well. When they peered in to see how deep it 
^vas, he suggested they let down their bucket of milk to keep 
it cool. They looked at the garden house, where Mrs. Baker 
exhibited ^vith pride her jars of Hopping John— black-eyed 
peas and rice already prepared to bring them luck on New 
'dear’s Day. For his supper she brought out meat she had 
pickled according to his instructions and a jar of jelly sealed 
with ^vhite of egg. 

The South was more abundantly blessed with native fruits 
than any other section of the countr>^ and nearly any fruit 
that grew in either the temperate or subtropical climates 
could be raised in Alabama. Southern farmers, once they 
knew how to utilize this advantage, could have fresh vege- 
tables of some kind all the year round. Long before any save 
advanced members of the medical profession. Professor Car- 
ver ad\’ocatcd fruit twice a day, raw if possible, issuing 
bulletins on such matters as how to utilize wild plums. 

Secretar)- Wilson, after his visit, had sent down thousands 
of packets of seeds to be dispensed. Parkman Brown, let us 
call him, ga\c a glowing report. He had planted parsnips, 
and when they were so high he had taken them in to the old 
woman. “How’ did you cook them, Mrs. Brown?” 

“Cut de tops an’ biled ’em. Dey suteny made de purtiest 
soup.” 

“What did you do with the roots?” 

“Th'ow’d ’em away.” 

It was no use teaching the farmers to raise vegetables 
when their wives did not know what to do with them after- 
ward. On his sorties into the country Professor Carver there- 
fore carried along jars and show^ed them how to pickle, can, 
and orcserve. The housewives, too, must learn how to arm 



“Go Tell It on the Mountain” 175 

Zhemselves against the winter months — those long, lean 
hounds which prowled wolf-like round the door. 

Eating habits being the most nearly fixed of any social 
customs, if a new dietary were to be added to the present 
one, It must be palatable and it must be demonstrated as 
bemg palatable; farm families would not improve their diet 
unless It tasted good to them. The apex of Professor Carver’s 
tnangle of soil, plant, and animal was the use of the resulting 
food m the human body. He had always been greatly inter- 
ested, not merely in the value of foods, but in their prepara- 

what they were for. Though he had not had access to foreign 

com?wkr that hfd 

ZZZT "ti artist at blending 

Lre La n most simple and inexpensive 

tare boA nutritious and delicious. 

From tune immemorial the custom had been to oostoone 
hog kdlmg until freezing weather. Though the hogs matured 
m dte summer and the farmer was put to the expense of 

lore? f ‘he risk of chote the 

gy he kept them, the practice had seemed necessary to 
avoid having the meat spoil in the heat A, Z ^ 

to*kerifdr'“rT” h “”hoZ 

Carver virirerj 

simple people if you lisLed tldv^r ” 

of thtrelm'aJh'rv'’''"' eat with them as one 

herry jam prepared espedrUy foj 0^^ !u and black- 

» lar, dra, r, 



176 George Washington Carver 

He was not haughty as some would be ^vith so much learn- 
ing, but would sit do^\■n and talk to them in homely words 
they could understand. They realized that he knew things 
and had their interests at heart. 

In the ver)^ early days some white persons were always 
present at the week-end gatherings; they did not like any 
assembly of Negroes. Even when they knew its purpose, many 
plantations did not permit a meeting at all; the o\\Tiers 
“didn’t want their niggers getting notions in their heads.” 

The meetings -were usually held on Saturday afternoons, 
but sometimes on Sundays. The church was the most impor- 
tant influence in the life of rural Negroes, and you could 
always find them in numbers at their little places of worship. 
Some kept their doors closed to strangers. They ^vere afraid 
of being ridiculed, but Professor Car\’er never did that, and 
he was accorded a place in their hearts and confidence. 

Though the slaves had been seized from many different 
parts of Africa, they had a common understanding in the 
sorrow of enslavement, and the white man’s religion offered 
them a common release. Slaves could not sing in the fields, 
but had to slip out nights into the woods to hold prayer 
meeting and, this world being so unsatisfactory^ hope for a 
better one “\Vhere Sabbaths have no end.” 

The Negro had an indefinable quality of charm and sweet- 
ness that was seldom found so universally in any other race. 
Such was his strength of character that the cotton fields and 
levees had left him \nthout bitterness. Nothing could destroy 
his humor or his song, which sprang in a perpetual, glittering 
fountain. No baton was needed in the tumble-do^\^l bottom 
churches to beat out his spirituals: “In this-a band we have 
s^veet music” and, “We want no cowards in the band, we 
call for valiant-hearted men.” The majesty of the Old Testa- 
ment lived again in these religious folk songs— “Blow out de 
sun, turn de moon into blood,” as they “Marched wiA spear 
in hand ” or “Marched with the tallest angel.” They injected 
a subtle poetiy of their own into, “Dark midnight was my 
erv,” or “De moon ran down in a purple stream. 



"Go Tell It on the Mountain” 17^ 

always they sang of the obligation to fulfill their Master’s 
bidding: 


“I know moon-rise, I know star-rise, 

I work in de moonlight, I work in de starlight. 

"Head got wet wid de mornin’ dew. 

What you goin to do when your lamp burns down? 
Mornin’ star was a witness too. 

What you goin’ to do when your lamp burns down?” 


Coming home from the church at night they crossed 
muddy streams on logs, holding aloft a burning pine knot, to 
keep them from stepping on snakes. And they went to bed by 
the flickering light of a chimneyless lamp. 

Every community had its own melodies, or its own varia- 
tions of those melodies. For the Sunday-evening chapel 
ser^ce at the Institute, Washington would ask for one. The 
embarrassed pause lasted only a little while, then a voice 
from the studmt congregation would start a high, quaint 
me 0 y heard in the cabin home or bottom church. Quick 
ears caught it and began humming, adding the words little 
by little until in a few moments a thousand voices were 
en mg m nostalgic song which possessed a form and beauty 
unsurpassed in the world’s musical literature. This was a rich 

"" Negro soul 

When Professor Carver conducted his country meetings 
gam and again he stressed the importance of “livina at 

^"ariaT Th 

72 T, J o™ food- 

and rh- 1 ^ eggs 

bM wf '“™ "’“P'- 8°“* garden is one of the 

est family physicians. Have a garden, a little place bv the 

ouse, even if it is only big enough to throw a dipper over it 

whe TeTt' P“ ^ have h 

t*ouWe a^d ”■ ‘f ^ hen does make 

>0U want to throw something at her, throw 



lyS George Washington Carver 

shelled com. The laborer is worthy of her hire, and she i\ 
entitled to half of what she earns.” 

The farmers were likely to be careless with their stock, and 
little lessons in this respect also were needed. With unthink- 
ing cruelty they ^vould tie the feet of their fo^vl together and 
carr)^ them head do^vn to market. “However short the dis- 
tance,” explained the professor, “this practice is wrong. 
Imagine yourself thus handled. Use a box to carry them,” 
he begged, “and if it is hot, make the box large enough for 
them to lie do^\'n.” 

He had a story he used when he wanted to impress on the 
people the necessity for thoughtful care of their stock. 

He himself had been riding along one scorching day and 
stopped at a number of cabins for a drink, watering his dusty 
horse at the same time. But at one house he became so inter- 
ested in his conversation with the farmer that he forgot the 
mare and her need of refreshment. Shortly he drew up before 
another well. As he was swallowing a long, cool dipperful he 
heard the horse whinny; she, too, was thirsty. Without wait- 
ing for an in\-itation she walked up to the ^vell, seized the 
bucket in her teeth, put her head in, and drank. 

To encourage the independent farmers who were not tied 
to the plantation system, the professor sometimes varied his 
week-end procedure. He ^\'ould walk into to^m on Saturday 
afternoons and talk with the groups of farmers bringing in 
their produce and gathering around the square. He would 
lift a turnip from the basket of one and carry it over to 
another to compare the httle one with the bigger one, so 
they could see for themselves and discuss when each had 
planted, how much and what kind of fertilizer one had used 
to grow the larger turnip and have it mature earlier. 

The white farmers lounging on the courthouse lawn were 
veiling to profit also; if Negroes could accomplish more than 
whites, they wanted to find out how. Seeing his head bent in 
earnest consultation, they would call jovially, “Come here, 
Carver. Tell us what you were telling them niggers. 

The professor was only too glad to oblige them, a person 



Go Tell It on the Mountain” lyg 

who does not answer another’s plea kills him in his heart. 
Furthermore, Professor Carver, taking the long view, knew 
that the Negro problem was only the Southern problem. 
They lacked the same things, and what would help one 
would help the other. If he persuaded one man to raise more 
he had helped his neighbor too; it spread and spread, and 
that was the big thing in life. If the land were well worked 
the merchant also prospered and the whole economy rose.’ 

If the farmers were to reduce their cotton acreage they 
must rmse other crops, and then a market for these must be 
foimd. The originally small, accidental root swellings on the 
wild member of the morning-glory family which was called 
^e sweet potato had grown into valuable human nourish- 
men . To be sure, they also yielded immense quantities of 
smaU culls with a woody fiber which could not be used I 
human food, but if the culls, vines, and peelings were sup 
plematted wrth protein to make a balanced ration they 
constituted an excellent stock feed ’ ^ 

cropTcorr^ “‘'-ated; with care two 

crops could be grown a year— an absolute failure was un- 

^own. More bushels could be raised per acre than with any 

w caZ ^a^ Sa::' h r 

tinm ,898, followed with others i: '”06 and “o'' “ 

1 hough sweet potatoes were Derishablt^ fL, 'u 
could be 3 ,^ remotdng'^s"^^^^^^^^^ 

no..o„ mS%mpe“ 

by dry 4 them 1 r^ck 

weather, spreading them out in the ^ ^ 

coasted and groj, they "oX e td aZ cofc t'*- 
our ancestors haH j j ^ substitute; 

days of the Civil War Even th^T starvation 

dyes and a,e!Z, 4d 

be developed from sweet po.a.oi could 



i8o George Washington Carver 


With prophetic vision Professor Carver could see that 
sweet potatoes had potentially great commercial value, and 
native industries were the greatest lack in the South. At 
a 1905 Farmers’ Conference he gave a lecture. “By the ad- 
vance of chilization, the markets have become more fastidi- 
ous; and he who puts such a product upon the market as it 

demands controls the market, regardless of color If every 

farmer could realize that plants are real, living things, and 
sunshine, air, food, and drink are as necessary for them as 
for animals, his problem would become intellectually enjoy- 
able and practical at one ^nd the same time. If you examine 
and pull to pieces the sweet potato, you find that for every 
hundred pounds the roots contain sixty-nine pounds of water, 
one of ash, and thirty of sugar, starch, plant cellulose, fat, 
etc. Sugar and starch and cellulose are composed of carbon, 
hydrogen, and oxygen. Water (hydrogen plus oxygen) comes 
from the air — Whence we readily see that aU except one of 
the hundred pounds of sweet-potato roots come from the 

air.” 

The sugar and starch could be converted into other things. 
He showed the farmers’ wives how they could make laundry 


starch: remove the skin, grate the sweet potato, put it in a 
cheesecloth bag, and dip the bag in water; dip and squeeze 
as long as a milky juice comes out; let the water settle and 
pour off the clear top liquid; stir the paste up again with 
more water, again let it settle, and pour off. The result would 
be an excellent starch, and if the water washings were boiled 
down they would have a syrup of better quality than 

sorghum. , , r , 

Professor Carver earnestly believed one of the fundamen- 
tal laws of success to be the saving of small things. Farmers 
were at one time the most wasteful and the most poverty- 
stricken of all people. Enough grease, for example, was 
throum away each year by each family to keep it m soap^ 
Step by step with conserxing the land marched co^erv^g 
the human values. Such simple things as P™ "“f 
lap and used string made into mats could brighten these 



1 ell It on the Mountain’^ 


i8i 


wretched homes and thus improve the tone of the people 
living in them. 

He was saddened by the waste he saw on every hand and 
by the meagerness of the farmers’ lives. They had so little 
joy, so litde comfort, so little beauty. But he did not waste 
his own time in idle sympathy. He believed that all things 
were put upon the earth for some useful purpose and that it 

was his function to discover as many of these as lay within 
his power. 

^ An essential step in building pride of ownership was to 
inculcate pride in the appearance of the place itself. Rural 
housing was one of the most serious problems of the South 
Its homes were the oldest, had the lowest value and the 
greatest need of repair of any farmhouses in the United 
tates. And there were more than two million of them. All 
were in sad need of furbishing, but this cost money and the 

people had no money. Some way must be found to provide 
adornment at little or no cost. 


It was a lifelong habit of Professor Carver’s to rise at four 
and go into the woods. “Alone there with the things I love 
most, I gather my specimens and study the lessons Nature is 

lovehness of the woods before sunrise. At no other time have 

me God means to do with 

^een 1 hi r nT 
Sleep, I hear God best and learn His plan.” 

As he looked across the rolling landscape he noted “vast 

tZl -ging Lm snow-wMm 

reds ol the gradations to the richest sienna and Indian 

the palest cre^ deepest yellow-ocher to 

me palest cream tintings on the other.” 

clay. 

unto the b^r up ^^ine eyes 

it, “nL that d”"* '’’"‘P-” ^’tplmned 

should! m^e, v^^hT '•>« I 

very method at my command — with 



i 82 


George Washington Carver 


chemistr)', with physics as well as with my eyes. And by so 
doing, the help came.” 

When the professor returned to his laboratory on Sunday 
night he carried along handfuls of clay, and when he went 
back through the countryside again he had a simple tech- 
nique for making color washings with which the interiors of 
the drab little shacks could be made bright and clean. If 
freely applied, the lime could build up morale, save deteri- 
oration, and aid health in cellar, hen house, pigsty, stable, 
and barn. 

“Take a few shovelfuls of white clay from the cut bank, 
like this. It has some sand in it, so we’ll sift it through a 


gunny sack. Then we’ll stir it into water in the big iron wash 
kettle and let it stand tw'o minutes. Now let’s see — the rest of 
the sand and gravel have sunk to the bottom and the water 
can be poured off. Next we put it in a flour sack and keep 
dipping it until all the clay is suspended in the water. And 


here is our whitewash !” 

If by any rare chance a house or school were built of dressed 
lumber, sizing was necessary, but it might be made from a 
pound of rice or starch or flour or boiled skim milk. From 
rotten sweet potatoes Professor Carver extracted a water- 
soluble bluing, which could also be used for laundry pur- 
poses, and if this blue were added to natural yellow clay a 
soft green resulted. In aU he created twenty-seven combina- 
tions of color washes. 

The two years Professor Carver had allowed himselt a 
Tuskegee were behind him, but he had relinquished any 
thought of leaving. The needs of colored people m South 
had proved themselves so overwhelming that he had long 
since irrevocably abandoned a career as a painter; p^tmg 
would only remain as a private escape and a joy, w 
could find time for it. He would never, so long 
forsake the duty which had been laid upon him of helping 


his fellow man. , , i. „ had 

He still pursued the pleasure of paintmg “hen he ha 

shut himself up in his own rooms. In his new medium of 



^^0 Tell It on the Mountain^’ 


183 


day he continued to paint some landscapes, but chiefly still 
lifes; one of peaches, done with his thumbs, has been sought 
by the Luxembourg galleries in Paris. 

If anyone asked him whether the colors would last, he 
would point to the hills and say, “They have lasted there for 
thousands of years without fading. They will continue to last, 

even though I take them out and paint chrysanthemums 
with them.” 

Professor Carver had two eyes that burned deep in his 
head. And he had two kinds of vision. As a scientist he was 
aware that cobalt had been called the goblin of the mines 
because it was thought to be worthless ore, that clay owed 
its hue to iron compounds or decayed organic matter which 
had become carbonaceous, and that impurities determined 
the tone. As a painter who had mixed his oum colors he knew 
that many pigments retained in their nomenclature a mem- 
ory of the lands from which they had been dug: raw sienna, 

1 erradi Siena, from the earth on which the Italian city had 
been built; umber from Terre ombre, the dark earth; terra 
cotta from baked earth. Ultramarine was lapis lazuli. One 
tradition said it had been brought from Afghanistan beyond 

the sea by Marco Polo in 1271 and ground into shining blue 
by the old masters. ^ 

His desire to be of service to all who could benefit by his 
toowledge, and his growing demand as a wellspring of wis- 
dorn among white men led indirectly to a remarkable dis- 
very. Early m the spring of 1902 the professor was asked 

plaTern^ belonging to a neighboring 

planter. He set forth on his mission. Near Montgomery his 

caught sight of a red claybank. He stopped his 
had pass^eThJm° ^ pailful. After he 

-d « h.s .nco^iderable little laboratoty began totpeS 

det^r^Ki^^ professor labored; in this red clay he could 

tion he had Aat^Y” intermittent oxida- 

ad that almost umque phenomenon— a new blue, 



184 George Washington Carver 

Dyestuifs are comparatively common, but pigmenis which 
can be used in paint are rare. Chemists were at this time 
seeking synthetic indigo as alchemists had sought gold. By a 
feat of chemical gymnastics Professor Carver had produced 
an unrivaled shade which could be used in water colors and 
in oil. 

The land on which he had found the clay belonged to a 
group of Montgomery capitalists who had spent three hun- 
dred dollars to have its value determined and had found noth- 
ing of consequence. They had been ready to sell the tract for 
seven thousand dollars, but Professor Carver’s discovery 
changed all that. They called off the negotiations and held 
it for development; now they would not sell at any price. 

Rumor of Professor Carver’s blue spread abroad. The 
Iowa State Register was moved to remember “our Mr. 
Car\'er,” who had “manifested a high order of ability, and 
was bright and quick of comprehension, full of hope and 
courage, genial and gentlemanly in his manners, and oblig- 
ing and kind to all with whom he was associated. To say that 
he w^as a favorite and that his departure was keenly regretted 
would be a simple statement of facts known to many at the 
time. Since going to Tuskegee Mr. Carver has not been 
much heard from by his Iowa friends, but recent reports 
show that he has not been idle, that he is associated with a 
remarkable bodv of men, and that he has won a place of great 
prominence and usefulness.” It added the hope that he would 
return to Iowa with a well-earned fortune. 

Simply because he was happy over his blue Professor Car- 
ver showed it at fairs along with the rest of his clay exhibit, 
and Northern manufacturers made inquiries. Technical ex- 
perts accept nothing until it is proved, and a representative 
of one of the great paint companies made a trip to Tuskegee 
Institute to see the color for himself. In his long canvas apron 
Professor Carx^er wandered about his office. Against the light 
he held the glass which contained the powdered blue, cher- 
ishing it in his strong hands-strong yet capable of mam^- 
lating the most minute objects with delicate precision. H 



“Go Tell It on the Mountain’^ 


185 


told how the Egyptians so loved this color that they had 
adorned their tombs with it in order to sleep with it in death, 

“Dr. Carver,” said the expert, “according to our obscr\ a- 
tion this is seventy times bluer than blue. We would like to 
put it on the market.” 

“No, no, no!” exclaimed Professor Carver in alarm. “I 
don’t want to commercialize it.” 

This was a rule to which he firmly adhered. He would not 
commercialize any of his products for his own profit. He was 
not personally interested in a “well-earned fortune.” And he 
had no desire to help a rich corporation to grow richer. 

The paint would have to sell at a high price, and he would 
not offer anything which required a labyrinth of machinery. 
Furthermore, he would not hav^e his name exploited, then or 
ever, because it would obscure his fundamental purpose, 
which was to help the man furthest down. 

He did attempt to protect the color with a patent, though 
the patent proved to be small protection. A year later the 
company advertised a “new and improved” blue. The burden 
of proof that it was his discovery rested on Professor Carver, 
which would have been costly and time-consuming. He had 
no time to bother with that. His interest lay in the thing 
Itself, and his pleasure in making it come into being. Multiple 
oxides had no place in the lives of the poor farmers and 
nouseholders; they needed a cheap paint to preserve their 
omes. In all his efforts he constantly asked himself, “How 
can this be adapted to the requirements of humble people?” 
hey were the ones who were in the greatest need of assist- 


Professor Carver’s assistance was most needed on his otvn 
home gromid, or its spiritual equivalent. By ,904 sixteen 
Little Tmkegees were holding their own conferences, and he 

Tuskegee graduates went the school reached out to her 
Professor Cajver did this personally with his agricul.u al 
graduates,- where they went he went, too, and kept r«um 
mg to see how they were getting along and to give them aid 



1 86 George Washington Carver 


in their problems. Sometimes their homes were in distant 
lands where he could not follow, but they could keep in 
touch by mail. If one returned to Cuba he wrote back for 
advice and reported on his progress. 

Thomas M. Campbell, Professor Carver’s most promising 
student, had been at Tuskegee seven years when a signal 
honor came to him in 1906; the United States Department 
of Agriculture appointed him Agricultural Collaborator for 
Macon County. It was strange to see a Negro working for 
the government in the South. At first his duties were not 
clearly defined, but when he made his first visit through the 
state, visiting a series of schools in western Alabama, Pro- 


fessor Carver, like a father starting his son in business, went 
along to bolster him up. 

That year marked another innovation ako. There being at 
that time no demonstration home and farm agents, he had 
filled in, but more and more it seemed necessary for him to 
widen his scope. The field work had to go on, but it should 
become the task of younger men. He had designed a wagon 
to be specially equipped with demonstration materials to 
take the place of his old cart, and the money for it was 
donated by Morris K. Jesup. 

The Jesup Wagon, a farmers’ college on wheels, started 
its career May 24, 1906, its object being to metamorphose 
shiftless tenants into thrifty farmers. It “became the vehicle 
of the first Negro Demonstration Agent in Federal employ, 
and went forth from Tuskegee on a regular schedule to the 
surrounding communities.” It would stop at a house to which 
all the neighbors had been summoned and give a demonstra- 
tion in plowing and planting, and return at the appropnate 
times for cultivation and harvest. This was, in fact, the e- 
ginning of the Federal Government Service m the South for 

MrXampbeU was placed in charge of the m-fement and 
by ,920 was directing the service in sevai of the Southern 

states The pioneering mule was long smce “d ^ 
Jesup Wagon had given way to a huge automobile calle 



Dr. C*tii\'cr in hi> iaboraiory 




**Go Tell It on the Mountain’* 187 

the Movable School, planned to carry out, as Professor Car- 
ver’s assistant, Austin W. Curtis, Jr., has said, the professor’s 
“ideas on the potentialities of art and science through cre- 
ative research, to turn the ugly into the beautiful, the waste 
into the useful, that even the poorest of God’s creatures 
might be healthier, his home more comfortable, his sur- 
roimdings more beautiful, his life more significant.” 

The idea of the Movable School spread to other coimtries 
and helped shape their educational policies with respect to 
retarded groups. A similar plan, adapted to local conditions, 
was put into operation in China, India, Macedonia, and 
Southern Rhodesia. It could not always be an automobile, 
nor even a wagon. In Albania, for instance, where roads were 
scarce, donkeys were loaded with demonstration materials 
and climbed the narrow mountain trails with their welcome 
gift of knowledge. But whatever the means of locomotion of 
the movable schools, they fulfilled the same purpose. 

The Movable School of Tuskegee now travels over hun- 
dreds of miles, demonstrating as it goes home economics, a 
balanced diet, rotation of crops, and consolidation of the soil, 
of lumber, and of other natural reserves. It tries to persuade 
the farmers of the Southern states to “gather the fragments 
that nothing be lost.” And they flock to learn. 



CHAPTER XV 


'^Then Why Mot Every Man?^^ 


From the very beginning “our Mr. Carver” 
was greatly in demand as a lecturer before colored audiences ; 
the important duty of advancing the course of scientific agri- 
culture could not be confined to Tuskegee and its environs 
alone. To fulfill this obligation he set forth on trips from time 
to time, speaking at the Congregational church in one town, 
the Baptist in another, at conferences and Negro schools 
ever^'where. Several times he was called to Berea College, a 
biracial institution until Kentucky law decreed that white 
and colored young people must not be educated within 


t^venty-five miles of each other. 

He ^vas sought, first, by virtue of his reputation and then, 
after he had once been heard, for his merry and inviting per- 
sonality. His voice was still high pitched as a woman s in 
normal conversation; Will Rogers later said he was the only 
person he knew who could sing tenor while he was talking. 
But his voice also had the resonance of a singer and was as 
effective. In spite of giving the same lecture often in essence, 
he always varied it with his audience. Seldom did he prepare 
a talk beforehand; he would begin: “In the words of the 
preacher, I will now take my text. I will then depart from it 
never to return again.” But he always did, and it was consid- 
ered a rare treat ivhen he was well launched, with audience 

and subject properly blended. 

At a Hampton Conference in 1899 he read a paper 
NS hich he said : “The fitting of men to die and rest from their 
labors ^vas almost the exclusive mission of education in ite 
cirlv historv. Now it makes labor a source of pleasure and 



‘‘Then Why Not Every Man?” 189 

profit and knowledge, teaching us how to live properly, thus 
making Heaven less problematical.” 

Speaking before state and national teachers’ conferences 
on the subject “Does Scientific Agriculture Pay?” he won 
many friends for Tuskegee’s practical system of education, 
many converts to the application of science to agriculture, 
and encouraged young men to seek instruction in this field. 
At Nashville, Tennessee, he said: “The Honorable James 
Wilson wites me that chief among his needs are trained 
scientists to fill the increasing demand.” And he quoted from 
a letter: “ ‘Have not half enough. Aside from the pressing 
needs of our o\mi country they are drawing upon me from 
the governments of Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and 
the last application comes from Ireland.’ ” 

Professor Car\^er had been at Tuskegee only a few years 
when he was asked to speak at a small school some miles 
below Montgomer)^ On the same train rode a woman pho- 
tographer from Washington who had taken pictures of the 
Institute and was going through the South seeking more 
views of some of the “Little Tuskegees.” 

The teacher of this particular one, young Mr. H., met the 
train late in the evening with horse and buggy, and all three 
rode off in a damp drizzle of rain, the photographer on the 
front seat with the tall and earnest Mr. H., talking busily 
about what he had accomplished and what more he hoped 
to be able to do. Professor Car\^er lent an attentive ear from 

die back seat, until they reached the local hotel and depos- 
ited the lady. 

Mr. H. turned the horse toward the schoolhouse, where 
Professor Carver was to stay with him overnight, delivering 
his talk the next day. 

Then Mr. H. abruptly disappeared. In this unfamiliar 
place Professor Car\^er waited and waited. He could hear 
the confused, uneasy sound of a crowd gathering, horses 
stamping, metallic rattlings, and low voices charged with an 
ominous quahty. Through the gloom he could make out the 
big hats of the riders and catch the dull gleam of gun barrels. 



190 George Washington Carver 

He realized, as Mr. H. had already done, that one of the 
sacred social customs had been violated by having a white 
woman ride on the front seat with a Negro. He realized, fur- 
ther, that in height and outline he looked enough like Mr. H. 
to be mistaken for him. “I can’t stay here,” he thought to 
himself. “I must get away.” 

He blew out the light and softly opened the door, slipped 
through, and closed it behind him. A gust of rain hit him 
sharply in the face. It was strange and unknown territory, 
and he had only the vaguest idea which way the railroad lay. 
Behind him he could hear the mob all around the school- 
house, The sound seemed to reach out and envelop him as 
well. When it seemed too near he hid in ditches. Once a shot 
went past him, but wide. He dared not stay on any road, but 
kept to the fields, slipping in the mud, stumbling into pools 
of water, walking and walking and carrying his suitcase. 
Every' time he fell it jabbed into him. 

Ml nighc long he plodded through the cold drizzle and in 
the early morning arrived, nearly exhausted, at a litde rail- 
road station he had never seen before. Eventually a train 
came, going north toward home, and he boarded it, still 

shivering. 

This \vas what educational pioneering meant in the South. 

Tuskegee Institute, or “The Booker Washington School,” 
as it ^^'as\no^v'n elsewhere in the country, was growing with 
astonishing rapidity; more acres were being added, and new 
buildings ^^•ere going up on all sides — every' year a little more 
and a little more. By the turn of the centur)' the operating 
cost of the plant was eighty thousand dollars, sixty thousand 
of which had to be raised by the efforts of Washington alone. 
The faculty staff numbered eighty-sbc, and there were forty- 
two buildings on the grounds; by 1906 these figures had 
jumped to one hundred and fifty-six and eighiy-three respec- 
Jivcly— practically doubled— and the school had an endow- 

ment of ox er a million dollars. 

Electric bulbs replaced the oil lamps on the campus in 
,000. a feature to be proud of and one which even the town 



*‘Then Why Not Every Man?** 


191 


lacked. Washington always wanted to be neighbors with the 
town. A chance came when Congressman Charles W. 
Thompson was going to have a Northern committee visiting 
him. The students rigged up lights from their own plant to 
his house, so he could put on a show for a night. After that, 
month by month the citizens had their houses wired by the 
students. Whenever the Institute could serve the town it 
wanted to do so. 

The town prospered as the school expanded. It became 
increasingly expensive to haul the large amount of supplies 
up from the station in the bottom, through the town, and out 
to the campus. A new station, therefore, was built nearer 
town on the Chehaw line, and a spur extended to the Insti- 
tute. 


In 1903 Rockefeller Hall, a boys’ dormitory, was erected, 
and Professor Carver moved into the rooms on the ground 
floor he was to occupy for thirty-five years. In almost no time 
they became a combination of library, picture gallery, mu- 
seum, and hothouse. Bookcases lined the wall space, and the 
gaps were filled with his paintings; laces were draped here 

and there; glass cases were crammed with a geological col- 
lection. 


Whenever Professor Carver walked or drove abroad his 
eager eyes spied and his eager hands gathered up objects of 
all sorts-plant fossils, the tooth of a mastodon, the skeleton 
of a prehistoric lizard-until he had a collection of rare 
botamcal, entomological, anatomical, and ornithological 
specim^. The grandmothers of the neighborhood could 
remem er a great noise and a great light over by the pine 
rees; they dated the happenings in their children’s lives as 
e ore or after the time when the stars fell on Alabama 
&me thirty miles from Tuskegee Professor Camr found 

In ^ presumably one of these stars. 

In his office were limbs of trees, moss, snakes; he nicked 

up eve^thmg he saw. Students would bring in cocks black- 
craft and stuffed and mounted birds and barnyard fowl. The 



192 George Washington Carver 

smaller children also brought their finds to the professor, 
who fostered their natural interest. 

An eight-year-old presented him with a fluffy young wood 
thrush he had caught. The professor took the bird, soothed 
it, and with his long fingers stilled its feeble fluttering. Then 
he began to describe its habits, telling the lad how the bird 
li\’ed, the things it ate, where it loved best to sit and sing, 
and softly whistled the song of the bird. “And now take it 
back and turn it loose, my boy; take it back to its mother. 
It’s terrible when a young bird is taken from its mother.” 

Small children had none of the awe of him which pos- 
sessed their elders. They merely accepted, quite simply, the 
fact that the professor could do anything, and laying his 
hand upon the heads of these smallest ones was a benedic- 
tion. When Da\idson Washington’s pet goose fell sick, he 
thought he would take it to Professor Carver, but kept put- 
ting it off. One morning his father said, “It’s too late now. 
Your goose is dead.” 

But Da\'idson replied, “I’ll take him to the professor any- 
how. He can make my goose well.” 

Belief in Professor Carv'er’s infalUbility spread, with cer- 
tain distortions, to other members of the younger generation. 
A teacher who happened to be in Montgomery one day ob- 
ser\-ed three urchins on the street. The two older boys were 
whipping the smallest one and he interposed. “Here! You 
mustn’t do that I What’s the matter, anyhow?” 

“We don’ like Jim — he’s no good. Y’all know dat man out 
at Tuskegee? Ef yo’ sen’ ’im yo’ blood he kin tell ’ow much 
colored y’are. We did— yas, we did tool— an’ he said Ah’m 
one haf and Jake’s two thirds, but dis ’ere low-down Jim’s 
two an’ a haf pa’ts niggah I” 

In practicing his advocacy of “no waste,” Professor Carver 
practically never threw anything out; almost certainly he 
could convert it into something useful or beautiful. In racks 
were ranged his lacemaking needles constructed from a can 
ooener, a toothbrush handle, an umbrella rib, a pamtbrush, 



‘‘Then Why Not Every Man?” 193 

a conductor’s baton, a spoke from his mother’s spinning 
wheel. 

In the summer of 1908 he went back to his birthplace in 
Missouri. He wanted to see the old folks once more, and this 
would probably be his last chance. Aunt Mariah Watkins 
lived in the same house in Neosho, and the schoolhouse he 
had first attended was still standing. He \isited again the 
cave on the Ba)Tiham place where he had once been afraid 
of bears, and found instead crinoids, brachiopods, bivalves, 
and corals. Aunt Sue and the old home were gone from 
Diamond, but Moses Car\'er still survived, a patriarchal 
gentleman getting on for one himdred and pretty much en- 
feebled. For the last time George Caiv’er bade farewell to 
Uncle Mose and received as a parting gift his mother Mary’s 
spinning ^vheel. 

As time passed the professor’s rooms became more and 
more crammed with his accumulation imtil they were stuffed 
to bursting and there was hardly room for himself. “I’m just 
a little crowded here,” he would remark with his charming 
smile as he moved a pile of books and pamphlets from a 
chair to make room for a guest to be seated. 

Here he passed his evenings at work; even when he was 
talking to a visitor his hands were engaged on some task or 
other, perhaps polishing rough stones until they gleamed like 
marble. Once when a Frenchman, a son of a member of the 
Chamber of Deputies, came to call, he was creating a lace 
design. The man from the land of lacemakers pronounced it 
a pure gem; nothing he had ever seen could compare with 

it, the French people would go mad over some of these 
pieces! 

Or^arily, Professor Carver shrank from showing his 
paintings except to those with w'hom he felt a kinship; he 
would be revealing himself. With a few people of his owm 
generation he felt reaUy at ease, and one of these was Mrs. 
Logan. They used to hold long conversations in the rockers 
on the porch of the Logan home. Mrs. Logan believed the 



194 George Washington Carver 

paintings should be on view, but he required much persua- 
sion. Under pressure, he consented to have two or three 
exhibits in the auditorium on the top floor of the Huntington 
Building, the academic building in those days. People actu- 
ally had more appreciation of these than of his laboratory 
work. A picture was something concrete they could see. No- 
body knew ^vhat he was doing in his laboratory; it was so 
remote, and nobody knew what it was all about anyhow. 

Professor Carver joined very little in the purely social 
affairs of the campus. He had slight interest in parties as 
such, and when he was accused of being selfish by not associ- 
ating with other people he could always plead the pressure 
of work. His non-attendance he further explained as due to 
embarrassment over an ineradicable inability to remember 
names. He could remember the names of an infinitude of 
plants because of the association of resemblances, but this 
rule did not hold good for human beings. More likely his 
remaining aloof on such occasions was due to the shyness he 
had never conquered. The impact of trivialities distressed 
him ; but quiet was the great restorer, and he withdrew from 
the chatter of inconsequential matters to his own room, 
whence passers-by might sometimes hear him singing, or the 
soft sound of a piano. Many criticized him because he was 
hard to know; he wns so different from their familiar world 
of petty affairs — he seemed to be one who was set apart from 
others. 

If anyone had the temerity to ask Professor Carver why 
he did not marr^^ he merely replied, “I never had time.” A 
rumor persisted among the older folk that when he was com- 
paratively nc^v to Tuskegee he had once viewed with a 
warmer than friendly eye a young woman on the campus. 
But in the course of time it developed that she had little 
sympathy wath his absorption in weeds and clay, nor could 
she grasp the spiritual significance of these things in the up- 
building of the race. No basis for a true marriage could exist 
here. He had retired again to his ivory tower and the state 
of being alone, for which he had apparently been destined. 



‘‘Then Why Not Every Man?’^ 195 

Though Professor Carver seldom sought companionship, 
when he was throwm with fellow faculty members he was 
sociable enough. He was a jolly, friendly dining companion, 
full of jokes, once remarking, however, that the table was a 
place for free speech but little thought. This was intended as 
a merry sort of irony and accepted as such. He himself read 
the daily papers faithfully, as well as his own field of litera- 
ture, and kept himself informed of what was going on in the 
world. Never did he gossip about his neighbors; never did he 
utter a harsh word or an unkind word. He seldom grieved or 
mourned, or at least never let anyone see him, but remained 
cheerful and lively in mood. He would have nothing to do 
with anything that meant unrest or meanness, but responded 
immediately to anything that meant joy or happiness. 

“Some people,” Professor Carver used to say, “don’t get 
much fun out of life. They don’t know how much fun it can 
be.” Most of his joy he derived from his contacts with young 
people. His youthfulness both in mind and in action met 
their blithe spirits on equal ground while, after \v'ork hours, 
he played and tussled with the boys under his care as though 
they were puppies or his own children. Withal, he was always 
kind and always wise. Consequently, they did not transcend 
the bounds of decorum nor overstep the mark of deference. 
If he inquired, apparently of space, “Has the tipping of hats 

to ladies gone out of fashion?” they hastened to correct that 
carelessness. 

A visitor once observing the manners of a small group of 
boys remarked to one of the teachers that they seemed to be 
the best-behaved on the campus. 

“Well, just see who they work for— Professor Carver.” 

Professor Carver held that training of the young should 
be based on natural inclination. This theory he followed also 
w ai parents wished a child to follow^ one of the arts for 
which it lacked talent. A girl at the school wiio w^as studying 
harmony made an arrangement of “Sw^ing Low, Sweet 

Chariot, and her mother inquired with some pride what the 
professor thought of it. 



196 George Washington Carver 

“I’m sorry you asked,” he replied, “because now I’ll have 
to tell you. No child is capable of arranging a spiritual. That 
song had harmony before she was born, and she will never 
understand it because the time and occasion for understand- 
ing are past. It was bom in the souls of those who suffered, 
and her arrangement is sheer effrontery.” 

He could not bear to hear piano plunkers perform gym- 
nastics, and when the parents of children who were merely 
expert at arpeggios sought his advice he replied in the words 
that had been spoken to him at Simpson about his own art. 
“Unless they have unusual gifts, they had better learn some- 
thing at which they can make a living.” 

But, by the same token, he had the utmost sympathy for 
the young people at Tuskegee whom he saw hungering as 
he had hungered, both for education and for bread, though 
the latter seemed of the lesser importance. From time to 
time, when something was needed to bring happiness in their 
recreational hours, he would come to the rescue, giving the 
girls a piano for their dormitory and, a little later, another to 
the boys, or lending four or five hundred dollars for the estab- 
lishment of a boys’ camp, which was never repaid. 

No one knows the number of students he assisted— both 
boys and girls— because he handled these charities himself. 
Whenever either Mrs. Washington or Mrs. Logan would 
say to him, “I knov/ of a girl who wants to go to school, but 
she has no shoes,” always the shoes mysteriously appeared 

and the girl could go to school. 

Some years after he had left Ames behind him he sent an 
unsolicited donation to the Alumni Association of Iowa State 
College. “The demands are unusually great this year; people 
are suffering in the school and out of it, and my little surplus 
goes to help them. I have a boy also that I am educating. But 
my beloved alma mater grows dearer to me all the time. 

The boy he was educating was a young fellow he had taken 
from a reformatory, assuming all obligations, to fill the place 
of the son he would never have. But reclamation came too 
late for this particular bit of human waste; he defied aU up- 



“Then Why Not Every Man?’’ 197 

building effort. His feet rested upon a foundation of quick- 
sand. As fast as the professor tried to fill in one place he 
would sink in another. He could not be made to see the true 
meaning of the Institute and finally had to be rejected. With 
a heavy heart Professor Carver saw his foster son start for 
the railroad, suitcase in hand, only nineteen and supposedly 
just starting out in life, but headed in the wrong direction. 

Over the years, hundreds of young men have gone from 
Tuskegee who, during their initiate, would make no impor- 
tant decision without first discussing it with the professor. 
They visited him in his office or in his sitting room, more 
often on Sundays when they were free of classwork, and he 
liked to have them come. 

Though he was never sanctimonious and pulled no long 
faces, to the little groups that dropped in on Sunday after- 
noons his talks had a religious tone in keeping with the day, 
which he himself devoted to spiritual matters. For Professor 
Carver no conflict existed between religion and science; 
science confirmed the Scriptures rather than opposed them, 
and God and the spiritual world were closely united to the 
natural world. 

Finally, the boys asked the professor to have a regular 
Bible class. This he did. It was held between suppertime and 
chapel, first in Rockefeller Hall, but as the attendance grew 
and grew they moved to larger and larger rooms, and still 
people were standing. By 19 1 1 the class had about one hun- 
dred steady attendants, and eventually three hundred tried 
to crowd into the assembly room of the Carnegie Library. 

As his audience was wedging itself in. Professor Career 
stood with watch in hand, and somebody would begin the 
reading on the stroke of six. The aim was not merely to 
become familiar with the Bible but, by example and demon- 
stration, to turn the scriptural stories from mythical tales 
into something vivid and immediate. When they were com- 
ing to passages that could be illustrated, he would have 
apparatus which would bring them from the far a^vay and 
long ago to the very real here and now. 



1 9^ George Washington Carver 

Did science and the Genesis story of the creation conflict? 
No exact record could be obtained because the truths upon 
which science was bmlt naturally did not trace back to Aat 
time. Nevertheless, the corresponding facts of evolution had 
been proved, and the professor traced the evolution of the 
earth from its gaseous to its present stage and the creatures 
that Uved upon it from a single protoplasmic cell to man. 

The Institute at this time maintained a Bible school, and 
one of its teachers protested to Mr. Washington that Pro- 
fessor Carver’s method of teaching the Bible was not in 
accord with orthodox theology. 

Said the principal, “Is this class optional, and free to 
anyone who wishes to attend?” 

“Yes.” 

“Do many students and teachers avail themselves of this 
opportunity?” 

“It’s always crowded.” 

“How long has it been running?” 

“More than three years.” 

“Well, if anyone at this institution can have a class in 
the Bible which is not compulsory and well attended for 
three years, I advise you to say nothing and not in any way 
disturb it, because we have to compel students to attend most 
such classes.” 

That ended the theologian’s criticism, and Professor Car- 
ver continued, in such subjects as, “God, the Father of 
Science,” to knit trees, birds, rocks, and rivers with religion; 
to explain the affimty of water and salt and the atmospheric 
conditions of the valley, in describing the parable of the 
lingering of Lot’s wife. While the discussion of Sodom and 
Gomorrah was proceeding Professor Carver was fiddling 
with something on the table before him. And what hap- 
pened to these wicked cities?” he asked. The answer came in 
a sudden burst of flames and fumes shooting up from the 
table, and the Bible students choked and coughed and fled. 

Though the class period was short, it ended on the minute, 
because he as well as the students must be in place promptly 



“Then Why Not Every Man?’^ 199 

for chapel. Whenever he was on the grounds he was in his 
seat at the proper time for morning and evening ser\ ice. 

To those young people who were blessed ^vith imagination, 
walking or talking with Professor Carver was like reading an 
exciting story. He was a universal magnet, and when he 
stepped out through the door they fell in with him, on the 
chance that he would pick up an ordinary' rock or stick and 
begin to tell of its mysteries. And boy or girl, man or woman, 
counted himself fortunate to be permitted to spend a few 
hours wdth him in his rooms. 

Professor Carv'er had his own lighting system; different- 
colored glass — yellow^, blue, green, and white — could be ad- 
justed to his taste. ‘T like the various colors,” he explained. 
“I find that one suits me at one time and another at another. 
One is more restful than another, one more stimulating, and 
another gives a steady glow for writing.” 

Some of the time set aside for writing wns taken up by his 
Economic Botany, some with a Nature Study Chemistry for 
Boy Scouts, some with complying with the requests of maga- 
zines for articles — the Review of Reviews, the Cornell Coun- 
tryman — or his job as collaborator on the Nature Study 
Review published by Teachers College of Columbia Uni\'er- 
sity. He had published fourteen bulletins by 1908, and their 
form w^as already being copied elsew'here. Hours and hours 
were devoted to his column, called Professor Carver’s Advice. 

Through this medium he w^as able to warn farmers in 
advance of hazards w^hich w^ere just around the comer, such 
as hog cholera, or he would caution stockmen against the 
rattlebox {C ratal aria) . He would publish a minute descrip- 
tion of the w'eed and its habits, and explain that animals 
were not particularly fond of it and an occasional branch 
here and there did little harm, but where the pasture was 
thin and green food scarce the stock might eat enough to 
produce harmful results. This he followed wdth detailed 
symptoms and the remedy for the animals, and precautions 
to be taken in the fields, particularly along the fences w'hich 
remained unplow ed. 



200 George Washington Carver 

Unceasingly he continued his mycological contributions: 

New or Noteworthy Alabama Fungi, published in 1897. 

Anthostomella sphaerotheca sp. nov. 

Stroma thin, black, crustlike, containing 1-6 or 8, prominent, 
subconic perithecia, perithecial wall poorly developed, ostiolum very 
short-papillate: asci nearly orbicular, about 20 X tSp, aparaphysate, 
very thin and delicate, soon deliquescing and liberating the spores: 
sporidia oval or spindle-shaped, often inequalateral, ends acute, 
light fuliginous but transparent, the center usually occupied by a 
large oval vacuole, i6-i8X5-6li* 

On dead petioles of Sabal Adansoni, Tuskegee, Ala., Jan. 20, 
1897. G. W. Carver (no. loi). 

Externally this clearly resembles A. minor E. & M., but the asci in 
that species are cylindrical, and the spores only 7-8 long. The 
quickly evanescent asci are often hard to detect, a hasty examina- 
tion giving the impression of a Sphaeropsis. The black, thin, crustlike 
stroma and imperfectly developed perithecia suggest the Dothidiales, 
and it is possible that the species may ultimately be placed in Auers- 
waldia. 


The job of the mycologist consists not merely in identifying 
the disease, but in looking ahead and preparing to combat 
the danger, though it may be fifty years away. The Journal 
of Agricultural Research of May 1928, issued by the Depart- 
ment of Agriculture, contains a historical accoimt of frog leaf 
spot caused by Cercospora diazu miura, which had lately 
attacked the soybean. “In 1901 Carver noted the occurrence 
of a fungus, which he designated as Cercospora canescens^. 
& M., on soybean and several other unrelated hosts, rms 
appears to be the earliest reported occurrence of a Cercospora 
on soybean in America.” It was not recorded agam m the 


United States until 1924. 1 • a 

A 1941 issue of the Journal of the Washmgton Academy 

of Sciences reads: “Since Carver appears to have been 

first to observe the asci of this species of 

and silver maple, 1897) it seems particularly fittmg that it be 



201 


*^Then Why Not Every ManT’ 

named in his honor. It is therefore named T. carveri’’ As 
their discoverer, more and more were named for him: 
Collet otrichum carveri, Metasphaeria carveri, and a host of 
others. 

Professor Carver had many “firsts” to his credit. Once he 
received a package from the West, and on the cord with 
which it was wrapped he noticed a peculiar fungus. This he 
incubated and, when traced, it was discovered to have come 
from old twine imported from Great Britain. Here was one 
of the many ways in which the public’s food supply and 
pocketbook were protected by the mycologist. 

Some of Professor Carver’s possessions, including the 
mycological collection, were unique, many were valuable, 
and he would take no chances on an uninformed person’s 
making a mistake or being careless in handling them. Con- 
sequently, no one could get in to clean his rooms. He, him- 
self, took care of his things and kept them put away and 
protected from rats and moths and deterioration. His first 
clock still says Standard Time in letters as brightly gold as 
when new. 

His insistence on being on time was considered an idiosyn- 
crasy by some of the more indolent members of the faculty. 
With the normal human distrust of the nonconformist they 
were disturbed by his habits. He was so utterly different from 
everybody else. He was not orthodox. Once he was even 
waited on, half jokingly, by a small group because he carried 
water to his o\m rooms and scrubbed them himself. A 
Teacher shouldn’t do that. All the others had a boy to carry 
their water and another to scrub and keep the rooms tidy. 
But It was not in the professor’s nature to sit around and 
have someone wait on him. They pointed out that Teachers 
didn t scrub. It wasn’t dignified. 

‘‘I always have and I expect to keep it up,” he a:.serted 
stubbornly. Then he produced what to him was an unan- 
swerable argument; the only way he could learn was by 
doing things himself. He would say, “What’s the reason I 
can t do that? This applied to scrubbing floors as well as to 



202 


George Washington Carver 

a chemical experiment. “Can’t I improve on the way it has 
been done before? The way to find out is to do it, then I don’t 
have to accept the conclusion of somebody else. When I 
scrub, I am using soap I have made myself. If I have the 
actual experience of using it in the manner I eventually want 
it to be used, I am finding out something, then I can tell 
others how it works.” 

They were baffled by his argument and had no rebuttal, 
but continued to be imeasy. In other ways also he was 
charged with a lack of dignity; he never could be made to 
conform in dress. Some of the faculty shared the farmers’ 
lack of thrift, and they poked fun at Professor Carver’s econ- 
omies. “There goes the great Professor Caiv^er. He looks like 
a ragamuffin!” He wore shabby, baggy work clothes most of 
the time. “You must change on Sunday,” they insisted, and 
he would, but no one could tell the difference. A person could 
buy a good serge suit in those days for twenty dollars ; Pro- 
fessor Carver would buy a hand-me-down for eight. Or, from 
season to season, he would just put away in trunks the suits 
he already had and then bring them out again, year after 
year, ^vrinkled and with sleeves too short, smelling of moth 
balls and becoming more and more out of shape as his figure 
became more stooped. 

He repaired and mended them himself and sewed on his 
owm buttons. He wore a flowing scarf ; any person with dig- 
nity wore a four-in-hand. In an effort to reform him some- 
body once sent him fifteen ties all at once. Probably he was 
presented with at least a hundred, but he just gave them 
away. To determine what dyes would best stand the strain of 
wearing, he preferred to make his o^vn ties and scarves, and 
dye them with plant juices. 

He had a quick answer for exasperated inquiries. “Profes- 
sor, why in the \v'orid did you have your picture taken with 
that checked collar?” 

“I had the collar on.” 

When he was starting for Washington everyone was horrh 
fied. “Aren’t you going to get a new suit?” 



“Then Why Not Every Man?^ 203 

‘‘No, I’m not going to show my clothes. I’m going to have 
a conference with the Secretary of Agriculture.” 

“Professor, aren’t you going to change that suit for the 
parents’ meeting?” 

“I thought they invited me. If they want to see suits they 
can come to my room and I’ll show them two or three.” 

The little ones at the Children’s House were provided with 
their own bits of ground, and parents and friends were in- 
vited at intervals to admire the work and the children them- 
selves, all attired in sailor hats and starched white dresses. 
These gardens were planned as co-operatives, and contracts 
were drawn up: 

We agree to ( i ) raise vegetables on one of the plots set apart to 
us for a garden; (2) follow as best we can the directions of our 
teacher; (3) share equally in the expense, labor, and profit of the 
garden. 


This was signed by four witnesses. 

Thus the children were made to understand what a con- 
tract meant, how binding it was, and how each shared any 
loss, regardless of excuses. 

"^e way to keep the young person at home, according to 
Professor Carver, was to make him a part of that home with 
a sh^e in its responsibilities— give him his own garden spot, 

a calf or a pig or a chicken for his own, which he must learn 
to take care of. 


^e Division of Nature Study and Children’s Gardens was 
designed to put the youngsters’ natural instinct for making 
mud pies to use m teaching them what those mud pies could 

tL “In the kinder- 

gartra the chUd should receive its first logical and practical 

J^enmg to the wonders and glories of Nature, which wiU 

-on untU he 

and CondaHne Nature Study Professor 
^ a su^on to teachera: “Stndents want to 
opic rather than give a direct answer. This is 



604 George Washington Carver 

not permissible. Nothing is more to be deplored in the class- 
room than to hear pupils giving their opinions regarding 
such matters as the intellectual world has recognized as fact 
decades ago.” 

He advised that the children walk briskly out-of-doors for 
twenty minutes, then tell what they saw, the object being to 
train their minds to comprehend at a glance what passed 
before their eyes. Conversely, they were to stand before a 
plot of ground ten feet square, study it for ten minutes, and 
then ^vrite the result of their observations. 

The publication of this Nature Study in the spring of 1902 
was probably the direct inspiration for Professor Carver’s 
being invited to Knoxville to conduct a nature-study course 
the following summer. The Aurora called him a “genius who 
lives in the closest touch with Nature. An encyclopaedia, 
though modest in telling his information.” He took his classes 
on excursions to the woods and hills and boat riding on the 
Tennessee River. These views of a type of countryside new 
to him gave him fresh subjects for paintings, which he 
treasured up in a mind that never forgot a scene; he could 
transfer them to canvas when he was back in the more 
scenically monotonous Tuskegee. He ended the course with 
a lecture on art, using some of his own paintings to illustrate 

his points. 1 • u 

Every inch of window space in his rooms was filled wim 

plants. Professor Carv'er, it seemed, could take a leaf or sprig 
and put it in a pot and it would bloom radiantly, just as he 
could wear a posy in his buttonhole on the hottest days with- 
out its wilting. Chiefly these plants consisted of amaryllis, 
which he never stopped breeding. He had developed one that 
was ten inches in diameter, and another that was pure white, 
and was working on one that would bloom twice a year. 

With all his activity the professor could never forget the 
flowers that meant so much to him. In 1900, in the midst of 
replying to queries about soils and crops, he announced he 
would take pleasure in answering any questions about ori- 
culture. It was a real pleasure and not a figure of speech. 



‘‘Then Why Not Every Man?’' 205 

“One bright branch growing against the wall is grace.” He 
assumed the sight was soothing and restful to other tired 
brains and bodies, as well as his own. He had an unselfish 
interest in making others happy by spreading the spirit of 
love flowers represented to him and the spirit of the beauty 
inherent in Nature, and inspiring in others something of his 
own appreciation. 

Shortly after he arrived in Tuskegee he was going along 
one day with his botany can under his arm, looking for 
mycological specimens. A lady passed what she thought was 
a harmless, shabby colored man carrying a strange-looking 
box. She stopped him and asked if he were a peddler. In his 
invariably pleasant manner he explained that he was seeking 
plant diseases and insect enemies. She was delighted and 
immediately asked him to come and look at her roses, whieh 
were badly diseased. He told her what to do for them ; in 
fact, he sat down and wrote out the directions. 

Through friendly gossip, word of his infallibility was 
noised about. Once a dispute arose downtown about the 
name of a plant. Finally one man said they had a teacher out 
at the normal school by the name of Carver who could name 
any plant, tree, bird, or stone in the world. And if he did not 
know there was no use to look any further. Another man was 
put on a horse and the plant brought to Professor Carver. 
He named it and sent it back. 

After that, his laboratory was never free from specimens 
of some kind. People began calling upon him for advice, and 
he was so gracious with his information that they felt quite 
free to do so. Then they fell into the habit of dropping in at 
the Institute to bring him little presents of bulbs or seeds, or 
just to see his flowers. He always had time for anyone who 
was genuinely interested, as when a local hairdresser brought 
some visitors out, and he showed her how the root of the 
yucca could be used as soap. 

Packets of native seed were constantly streaming out of his 
office to other schools or organizations. In mailing one pack- 
age of lantana, vinca, French mulberry, and magnolia 



2 o 6 George Washington Carver 

grandiflora, he wrote, “It is such a little contribution that it 
is hardly worth mentioning, but I am so very fond of flowers 
and pretty things of all kinds that I like to contribute any- 
thing that may give pleasure to others, even though it may be 
small.” 

And the school returned gratefully that the opportunity of 
adding something beautiful to other homes was not a small 
thing. Since he put only a moderate amount of seed in each 
envelope hundreds of people shared the kindly gift, which 
would grow in ever-widening circles. Thus some of the 
brighmess of Alabama was sent to almost every state west of 
the Mississippi, and many east of it. 

In another respect also this giving was not a small thing, 
because it contributed immeasurably to happier relations 
between the races. No one could scorn the donor of such 
simple and lovely presents. 

A measure of the worth of a man is not merely the degree 
of fame he achieves, but how the “folks back home” feel 
about him. As Professor Carver walked through the streets 
of Tuskegee he would see a particularly charming garden 
and compliment the gardener. Immediately racial barriers 
were do\vn and they would fall into a brisk discussion of her 
particular problems. 

He could do more than any other one man to create a 
pleasant atmosphere among the adjacent white people simply 
by being a friendly person who loved flowers. 



CHAPTER XVI 


’’The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell Off” 




^OTH Washington and Carver, so dissimilar in 
many respects, had fundamentally the same viewpoint and 
the same aim, however widely their techniques might differ. 
In their thinking, both were robust, nonconformist, and rev- 
erent. Both had positive programs with which they were 
dealing vigorously, and so were spared the bitterness that 
comes of frustration. Both were “successful” men, insofar as 
success is measured in proportion to the study or devotion 
given to one task. 

The hard years that had passed since Washington first 
came to Xuskegee had altered him, even in appearance j 
from the swift arrow he had become the heavy hammer. 
But he did not permit the responsibility of guiding an entire 
race and the vision of the ultimate goal of that race to obscure 
the details. Away from Tuskegee he was the great Booker T. 
Washin^on, who was to dine with presidents and kings, but 
at the little Alabama town he was “the principal.” 

He found his greatest relaxation in hunting. But as he 
Went through the country on Dexter’s back, pursuing this 
avocation, he never for a moment in his pleasure forgot his 
people and his relation to them. If he found a destitute fam- 
uy, he had immediately to hand the means of relieving their 

toress; mcluded in the Institute budget was a small fund 
tor just such purposes. 

apocryphal, that once when 
Roosevelt was in Louisiana he wanted 
I JT bear m the bayous. A colored man in the neighbor- 
hood was rumored to have good bear dogs, and a Lret- 



2o8 


Geori^e Washington Carver 

service man was dispatched to the man's home to ask 
whether the\ could Im- borrowed. He lirmlv drclined. 'I'hr 
secret-service man protested, ‘‘Don't \ou understand it's the 
President of the I'nited States who's asking for \our dot’s' 

The owner was still firm. “He can t ha\e 'em C.an't no- 
body have 'em. Not even if he was B<x>ker 1. \Vashini;ton 
himself. " 

If Washincjton had a few minutes' respite from his duties 
he would take a small book of verse (uit of his i>rH'ket .in«l 
study it, or hoe in his own garden. He was e'^'<l at uarden- 
inj^; he raised lar^c and succulent and juiev onions. And 
Professor Carver coveted them for himself, Retiirnintt onre 
from an early-morning walk, he dropped in t(i see how the 
principal's garden was coming along. Mr. \Sashington was 
presumably at his office. He swiped three and was just leav- 
ing with his booty when he beheld Mr. ashington entering 
the gate. “I didn't mean for you to see me. he grinned, and 
received an answering grin. .As a matter of fact, he had a fair 
exchange to offer, because he had been out gathering choice 
wild vegetables for his friend, whose dietary was limited. 

It had long been proved that these two men understood 
each other ven’ well, though they differed immeasurably in 
personality. Washington was the leader of an uptreading 
race, it was on its way, in the spring of the vear as far as the 
modem civilized world was concerned. That world and what 
they would make of it lay ahead. His favorite spiritual was, 
“We are climbing Jacob's ladder, everv- rung goes higher, 
higher.” He exulted in the challenge and met it with zest. 
Professor Carver was a quiet man, a scientist, wrapped in 
laboratory problems. But when the^e problems were resolved 

they would be achiev ing the same end. 

Both were pioneers, and there is always something to 
adjust in pioneering. Washington was positive aboiU what 
he wanted; Professor Carver was equally positive a^ut h 
W’ay And thev respected that positiveness in each other 
Once Mr. Washington told the professor someone had said 
he was all ivrong about something or other, and he replied. 



*^The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell Off” 209 

“Mr. Washington, I might be wrong in this instance or that 
one, but not in alL That isn’t possible. I wouldn’t believe it if 
I had said it myself.” 

If the point that had arisen were one of school policy. 
Professor Carver, though he might disagree, would not inter- 
fere. But, by the same token, he would brook no interference 
in his own province, which he knew better than any outsider 
possibly could. 

A typical row arose regarding a sweet-potato bulletin. 
Professor Carver had written it and turned it over to Mr. 
Washington for approval. When he went to see the principal 
about it, Mr. Washington was seated at his desk. He picked 
up his pen. 

“I see you say that nobody knows where the sweet potato 
originated.” 

“That’s right.” 

“Nobody knows?” 

“Nobody knows.” 

“Then let’s say it was Macon County.” 

He dipped his pen into the inkwell and started to insert 
“Macon County.” 

But Professor Carver quickly interrupted him. “Mr. Wash- 
ington, you can t do that. Such things must be known and 
classified. If you want to sign that bulletin, all right, but if 
you want me to sign it you’ll have to leave it alone. I can’t let 
it go out under my name.” 

“Why not? Let’s give the sweet potato a home.” 

“But anybody with any knowledge at all would know that 
It couldn’t have originated here. The plant series doesn’t 

warrant it. You can’t just arbitrarily put it anywhere you 
choose.” 

He could not let Mr. Washington make himself ridiculous, 
^d so he deUvered a body blow to the altercation. “I don’t 
^eve the I^titute is in any position to withstand the fire 
that will be directed toward it if that is published,” 

^^Well, all right. If that’s the way you take it.” 

It isn t the way I take it. It’s just the way things are!” 



210 George Washington Carver 


Washington could appreciate that attitude, and there the 
matter ended. 

These were the disagreements of two honest and intelli' 
gent men. They could argue like anything without for a 
moment losing the respect and deep sense of fellowship exist' 
ing unspoken between them. 

Sometimes at one o’clock in the morning Professor Carver 
would be awakened by a knock on his door. “Mr. Washing- 
ton would like to know if you ” But the guard did not 

have to explain further. 

Professor Carver would reply instantly, “Of course. Tell 
Mr. Washington I’ll be right out.” And he would dress 
hurriedly and go out to join the older man, who was walk- 
ing up and down, and back and forth — waiting. Plagued 
and harassed as he was by his infinitude of problems, he 
found, not necessarily a solution, but peace, with his friend. 
They would walk and talk about various things; sometimes 
they talked very little. Eventually they would be back at 
Rockefeller Hall. 

“Good night. Professor.” 

“Good night, Mr. Washington.” 

And both would go to bed refreshed in spirit. 

As in any small community, the word of any unusual 
happening spread; the guard would tell his ^rl, she would 
tell another girl, and the dean would hear of it. Some of the 
smaller souls on the campus could not understand. Someone 
at table the next day would say to the professor, “Why don’t 
you tell him you won’t do it? Interrupting your sleep like 


that!” . ,. 

Should this occur, Professor Carver was stem m his re- 
proof. “Whenever Mr. Washington calls, I shall be ready. I 
consider it an honor and a privilege. And another thing. 
I’m never going to tell my boss I’m not going to do ^y- 
thing, and then accept money from him. Before I say mat, 
my resignation will already be on his desk. As long as there 
is no interference with fundamental principles, I m gomg to 
do what the Institute asks me to do as well as I am able to. 



“The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell 21 1 

That’s my position — always has been and always will be !” 

Washington, too, had suffered painful experiences, and con- 
fessed he had frequently been tempted to join in the de- 
nunciation of race evils, but always was saved in time by the 
realization that it would do harm rather than good, and that 
better ways could be found to handle the situation. His “bet- 
ter way” is engraved on the base of his statue at Tuskegee: 
“I will let no man drag me down so low as to make me hate 
him.” 

He had one such experience when he was giving a talk 
somewhere in Florida. There had been a lynching the night 
before. A sheet was hung between the white and colored sec- 
tions of his audience, and the grim-faced white men sitting 
in the front rows held pistols in their laps. With no sign of 
perturbation Washington started to tell stories and continued 
until the muscles of their trigger fingers relaxed and the 
muscles of their faces softened in laughter. Then he was 
able to get over the point of his speech. 

His success in like emergencies led him to testify to the 
innate honesty and good will of the white man, which would 
prove itself in the South as soon as that part of the country 
had recovered from its long-range, sullen resentment against 
Negroes who were competing in the labor fields, and against 
Northern foreigners” or “aliens” whom it suspected of try- 
ing to force it to do something it did not want to do. 

Washington’s interest in politics and race relations was as 
foreign to Professor Carver as his love of hunting, but the 
latter could not possibly avoid considering the question of 
the advancement of the race. Nor did he wish to, since help- 
ing to mold the race from raw material into useful citizens 

was one of the things for which he had been placed upon 
the earth. 

Both put this squarely up to the Negroes themselves. Pro- 
fessor Carver wanted it to take concrete form and not dis- 
sipate Itself in announcing what they would someday do. He 
would advise a colored audience, “Stop talking so much. 
You never saw a hea^7 thinker with his mouth open.” 



212 


George Washington Carver 


The summer of 1900 Professor Carver had made a trip 
back to Iowa. Having time to spare in St. Louis between 
trains, he utilized it by going through the Edison plant, and 
interpreted \vhat he observed as a lesson to Negroes. When 
he saw only ^vhite workers at the machinery, he asked him- 
self, “Where are the colored men?” He found them dowm in 
the boiler room, shoveling out ashes and shoveling in coal. 
He longed to get them upstairs. It was high time they were 
trained to be producers instead of consumers. If the eight 
million Negro population should be wiped out, he warned, 
the country would continue to move on j if the white popula- 
tion should be wiped out, the country would have to take a 
backward step to accommodate itself to Negro capabilities. 
Negroes could not legitimately object to Jim Crowism in 
Atlanta streetcars As^hile they did not own a w^heel nor a rail. 


“We can never amount to much,” he ended, “so long as our 
only possession is our own labor, and that the very cheapest 
kind of labor.” 

In order to refute the common attitude that Negroes wnre 
figures of fun, he advised his boys to stop clowning and bend 
their energies townrd enriching the sum of life. He once re- 
marked to a young white friend, “A good many biting things 
are said about our colored people, and these frequently 
irritate Tuskegee boys and make them angry. They are in- 
clined to deny these and make hot comments on their critics. 
But I tell them, ‘You get nowhere that way. If fault is foun 
with us, no matter how rudely, we should try to think to 
what extent it may be well based, and then correct our shor^ 
comings as far as we are able. Even the most unfnendly 

criticism may be a help if you take it nght. 

Washington, not content with having students erect the 

chapel, wanted them to go on and prove ‘hemsete agM 
and again in bigger and better ways. Accordmgly he pro- 
iected\n enormous dining hall, asking the trustees oriy 
approve the building. “I'll get the money, he pro^ei 
he did. He was perfectly aware that even co ore p p 



‘^The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell 213 

never expected they could carry through such a huge under- 
taking alone, so it was necessary to convince them as well as 
white people that they were capable. 

It took a long time. The boys sweated for months raising 
the huge timbers, and for many more months the structure 
was open to the winds. But eventually it stood complete — a 
stately edifice, red brick, white-pillared, and graceful, for 
all its impressive size. They strung electric bulbs around the 
white dome so it would burst into light on the night of the 
opening celebration — a shining halo to crown their achieve- 
ment. 

White people were astonished at the marvel; they were 
not accustomed to Negroes’ owning anything, and a shrill 
cry rose above the continuous dull mutter of animosity. The 
dome seemed a particularly flagrant piece of presumption, 
and the cry found words, “That Washington is trying to 
start a nigger capitol !” 

Some dark nights rocks were thrown onto the campus, but 
the threats did not materialize; for the most part the ani- 
mosity remained intangible and eventually died down be- 
cause no resistance was opposed. 

With Washington, Professor Carver had to endure the 
hardships attendant on any pioneering. When these were 
purely physieal, he had no complaint, but when they 
sternmed from base human emotions, he was made bitterly 
unhappy. Once when he made his morning rounds of the 
Station plots he found his grain had been eaten off and his 
young plants trampled. Cow and mule tracks indicated the 
nature of the culprits— but the gate was closed. They were, 
therefore, innocent agents of destruction; some human hand 
had been at work. The gate had been opened at night, the 
stock let in and then removed early in the morning, and the 
gate shut behind. 

Mommg after morning the same thing recurred. Finally a 
student came to him, hesitant and fearful that it might not 
become him to say this, but he hated to see the havoc. “If 



214. George Washington Carver 

you’ll come down to the Station before four tomorrow morn- 
ing or after ten at night you’ll know whose stock is doing 
the damage.” 

This the professor did, and immediately identified the 
teacher who owned the animals. Until then he had not 
known that any of his own people could be like that. It was 
a new experience, and not a happy one. He recalled a talk 
he had heard given by another Negro, who had also tasted 
bitterness: “We are like crabs in a hamper. All lie quietly 
for a long time. Finally one takes a notion to move around 
and, growing bolder, starts to climb up the sides. Don’t 
wnrry, he’ll never get out! He struggles while the others 
watch him. As soon as he gets ready to put one foot over the 
side, all rush to pull him back. Don’t worry, he’ll never get 
out!” 

Being a man of rare tenacity. Professor Carver’s work 
came before his personal griefs. He could stick it and did. 
He only wanted to be let alone to accomplish what he had 
to do. 

In some minds he remained a foreigner, and hence an 
object of distrust. They, too, had been through educational 
institutions and they could not do the things he was doing. 
In fact, they could not conceive of anybody being able to do 
them. They felt they must, somehow, prove he was wrong. 

The United States Department of Agriculture recognized 
Professor Carver as an authority on soils and plant life, arid 
his assistants, no matter how weU grounded themselves in 
these matters, looked up to him as an unfailing and strictly 
accurate source of information. One of these would some- 
times get lost on a plant disease; he could not diagnose it, 
but Professor Carver could, and could give the remedy and 
cure. Or perhaps he found a plant in the woods which he 
could not trace in any book. He showed it to Professor Car- 
ver The explanation required only a brief study. “This does 
not belong among wild plants; it has escaped from domesU- 
cation ” If someone sent the professor no more than a seed 
from the tropics, he could couple its common name with its 






Dr. (iaivci vvitli Di. John M. Chcnault and infantile paralysis patient 


"The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell 215 

botanical characteristics and get the answer. He was always 
right. 

It was commonly accepted that a Negro failing was to 
use words that %vere too big for him. Professor Carv^er also 
used big words, but they were necessary in his business. 
Plants must be called according to their proper classifica- 
tions, because such names indicated both their potentialities 
and possible dangers. Scientific exactitude was not merely 
his habit but was highly essential, for instance in the matter 
of knowing how to distinguish poisonous properties. He in- 
cluded the common name also wherever possible to aid the 
layman in identification. 

Some people on the campus, who were not accustomed to 
scientific terminology, were sensitive. Granted, the professor 
was always going off to Washington about something or 
other. But that didn’t mean much right here at home. And 
they had no means of knowing just how important he was, 
because he kept so much to himself, intent on his \vork and 
not on his reputation. 

To those, fortunately very fe\v, who were mimical he W'as 
nothing but a lot of big-sounding words that meant nothing 
and they, personally, were cominced Carver didn’t know 
w'hat he was talking about. They said as much to the 
principal. 

"You have no proof of that,” replied Mr. Washington. 
'‘You’ll have to produce some proof; you can’t Just make 
such a statement.” 

So they made a plan between themselves and, with ex- 
ceeding great rashness, tried to discredit him on, of all things, 
botany. 

The table in the council room w^as in the shape of a T, 
w^th each person s name on a brass plate. The principal sat 
in the middle of the T, his secretary on his left, Professor 
Carver on his right, and the other members ranged down 
the table. 

One of the three conspirators came into the council room 
with a handful of plants. He wa.s to project the movement. 



2i6 


George Washington Carver 


Another had a list of the common names of these plants, 
and the last a textbook which referred to them by their 
botanical names. 

The first singled out one of the bunch of plants and held 
it up. “Can you tell me what this is, Professor?” 

Professor Car\^er looked up from the report he was read- 
ing. “That? It’s Datura stramonium. It’s what is called Jim- 
son weed.” And he returned to his report. 

A low-voiced consultation took place, while references 
were sought in the textbooks to check the statement. 

Then he heard, “And what’s this. Professor?” 

Again he tore his attention from his papers. “That’s 
Asarum canadense—wild ginger.” And again his eyes sought 


his papers. 

Another pause ensued, as the leaves of textbooks were 
turned. 

Once more he was shown a plant and asked the same 
question. He was slightly impatient; he didn’t want to be 
bothered just then. “Here,” he exclaimed, “give me those!” 
and he reached for the pUe of plants. “This is Ambrosia 
artemisiifolia—Tdigwted:' He tossed it down. This is 
Oenothera biennis-cvemng primrose; Marrubium vulgare 
^horehound.” They were scrambling about among the 
books, but he went so fast they could not possibly keep up 
with him and in a few moments were thoroughly confused 
and mixed up. They couldn’t follow him at aU. Wioscorea 
villosa— wild yam; Sarracenia purpurea— pitchtrplzn . 

He peeled them off and cast them down until he ha 
finished the pile. “There, that’s the end of it!” He hoped he 
had finished with what seemed to him just foohng aro^^ 
which did not have any point at that time and p ace 
other things were more important. It never crossed Im mind 
that this was a carefully laid trap to expose him before the 

" Ue had given up and c.o.d Ujeh To 

Professor Carver’s utter amazment ^ P attempt 
dained what they had been trymg to do. But the attemp 



‘'The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell Off” 217 
had failed. They guessed he did know what he was talking 
about, after all. 

That particular question had finally been settled by ocular 
demonstration, the only kind they could understand. In some 
quarters, however, it did not allay the conxiction that Pro- 
fessor Carx'er was only a theorist, not a practical man. 

Throughout the ages there have arisen individuals who 
lived beyond their day and generation. .\nd it often takes 
half a century for the mass of people to catch up with them. 
He was constantly committing the unpardonable crime 
against the herd of being “different.” His ideas were tho.se 
of a cT3.zy man; he was too far ahead, and people can t see 
far ahead. 

There existed a general vagueness among many of the 
people at Tuskegee. They had glimpsed the transcendent 
idea of self-abnegation in a general way, but could not go all 
the way. They did not fully comprehend, and human frail- 
ties entered in. They lacked that feeling of being secure in 
their abilities which makes for well-poised efficiency, and 
which would enable them to carry through every detail of 
their work and personal relationships. They had thrust their 
heads and shoulders through the crust of postwar slavery, 
but they were not giants. And it took a giant to keep his 
footing on this insecure land they trod. All around them lay 
quaking mires, and they could be sucked back in without 
warning, without having committed any offense, and a hide- 
ous death might be the result. Safety for all peoples at all 
times has lain in banding together, and this people needed 
some measure of safety more than any other. 

Professor Carver had a more certain sense of his destiny. 
He could bear to be alone, except for his God. He could not 
have come through these painful times without the help he 
received from a Power Divine to whom he constantly turned 
for guidance to keep his spirit free from rancor, and to give 
his spirit peace. 

More and more he sought his laboratory where his own 
peculiar genius could find its best outlet. His equipment, 



2iB George Washington Carver 

poor as it was, held a fascination which the extensive busi- 
ness of organizing half the school in farm activities could 
not hold. 

When he ^v•as about to make an experiment he was up at 
three in the morning, the door locked, ready for the attempt 
to put what God had made for man’s use and his delight to 
its practical application. Everything was planned in ad- 
vance ; he was going to need such-and-such implements and 
they were laid out ready for use. Because he would have 
nobody else with him, he seemed peculiar. “We don’t know 
what he’s doing in there,” they complained. He could not 
let anybody kno^^■, Other people would inevitably get in the 
way — if not physically, he w'ould be conscious of them men- 
tally, instead of having a mind completely open to any idea. 
Since they did not understand what he was up to anyhow, 
he could not dissipate his energies with explanations and 
conjectures. He was sailing uncharted seas and, though he 
might have a vision of what his landfall would look like, he 
could not tell for sure, and he might have to change his direc- 
tion if the wind blew too strongly from another direction. 

One who had his first sight of Professor Carver in the 
laboratory in his typical pose, leaning over a little in an ab- 
stracted kind of way, was bound to recognize him as a great 
man. Though this fact sometimes escaped those who lived in 
the shadow of the mountain— whose eyes were, through 
habit, bent to the ground they had traveled, and could not be 
raised to see the top, visitors almost inevitably felt that. They 
were aware of his restless, groping spirit seeking light. His 
intentness gave the impression that he had a fixed idea; that 
his span of life was limited. But if only he had time to work 
out his plans he knew he would have something to pass on. 

Mr. \Vashington, as always, wanted to make the fullest 
use of human material. It was not a question of whittlmg 
the wrong-shaped peg to fit into the existing hole; some- 
where in the world was a right-shaped hole for every hum^ 
beine. where his fullest potentialities could expand and be 
utilized. Such a situation he sought for Professor Carver, as 



'^The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell Off 219 

evidenced by a short note he wrote on February 22, 1904: 
“Professor Carver. When you get this I want to speak to you 
about the Carnegie Institute for encouraging original re- 
search. I think that in some way this organization should be 
of some service to you in giving you a chance to do original 

work.” 

Nothing resulted from this, however, and a time came 
when Professor Carver felt so harassed and burdened by the 
weight of executive duties that he considered the need of 
removing to some other locality where he would be less ham- 
pered in his creative experimentation. This experimentation 
was unique and much too valuable to be lost to the sehool. 
The Agricultural Department could be placed in capable 
hands which would leave his at liberty. Consequently, the 
Board of Trustees decreed he should be relieved of depart- 
mental and classroom duties, except for some evening classes 
in botany, which he himself wanted to keep. He was to con- 
tinue to serve as an information bureau, as director of the 
Experiment Station, and to extend his lecture trips; for the 
rest, he would be free to lock himself in his laboratory and 
follow his creative genius for research. 

The Institute was a self-contained town of itself now, with 
what amounted to a city hall in the administration building, 
a post office, bank, church, library, power plant, shops, 
water and sewerage systems — all the accouterments of a 
modem town. And as it grew, the farm land was pushed 
further out. The old Slater-Armstrong Building which had 
once been “the finest in the South” had been outgrown, and 
was turned over to the Home Economics Department. A 
new agricultural nucleus was needed on the outskirts, and in 
the building contributed by the Milbank Memorial Fund in 
1909, Professor Carver’s laboratory was set up with more 
adequate equipment than he had had heretofore. And it 
became known as God’s Little Workshop. 

His chemical laboratory was no more important to him 
than his proving plant or hothouse; he employed them all as 
a housewife employs her stove. They were tools, and he never 



220 George Washington Carver 

quarreled \vith his tools, but took what he had to make what 
he wanted. 

The creative mind was hard for some people to imder- 
stand ; its working seemed to be illogical because, of neces- 
sity, it broke a\\-ay from conventional thinking. The creative 
mind asked so many questions and seemed so eccentric that 
its o\Mier was frequently branded queer or downright cra2y. 
The professor had his own rule of behavior for this creative 
mind of his, which wns to keep its mouth shut, its ears 
closed, and its eyes open. 

He \vas himself a manifestation of the spirit of orginality, 
but he did not consider that these powers were his alone. He 
did not say, I am going to do so and so, but looked for Divine 
direction. And he believed devoutly that a plan was inherent 
in everything if one could just be patient and wait for it to 
sho^v itself. According to his notion, at the back of all 
manifestations, and that did not exclude the scientific, was 
one Cause, one Creator. The seeker after truth did little but 
draw aside the veil and think God’s thoughts after Him. “I 
discover nothing in my laboratory,” Professor Carver said. 
“If I come here of myself I am lost. But I can do all things 
through Christ. I am God’s servant, His agent, for here God 
and I are alone. I am just the instrument through w^hich He 
speaks, and I would be able to do more if I were to stay in 
closer touch with Him. With my prayers I mix my labors, 
and sometimes God is pleased to bless the results. 

When the decision had been made, one of Professor Car- 
ver's first acts was to notify Secretary Wilson, who was still 
his counselor, of his changed status. Early in 1910 he re- 
ceived the reply: 


Department of Agriculture 
Office of the Secretary 
Washington, D.C. 


My dear Carver, , u 

I am very- much pleased w ith your letter and to find that you have 

been promoted to a higher class of work. Research, of course, is the 



“The Dungeon Shook and the Chains Fell Off” 221 

highest class of work connected with agriculture. Research, of course, 

Is very difficult, ... to wrest from nature some of the secrets that 
have never been known before. ... I will send ^ou a cop\ of my 
annual report. I wind it up by saying that science unapplied is a 
dead thing. The science that you work out in your laboratory must 
not be allowed to go to sleep or to go to the grave again. 

I am very^ glad indeed that this promotion has come to you. You 
certainly have worked for it and earned it. I remember when I first 
met you, vou said y'ou w'anted to get an agricultural education so 
you could help your race. I had never known anything more beauti' 
ful than that said by a student. I know the taste you ha\ e for paint- 
ing and the success you had made, and I said, ‘‘^Vhy not push your 
studies along that line to some extent?” You replied that that would 
be of no value to your colored brethren. That, also, was magnificent. 
Now you have a fine opportunity, being the foremost colored man 
the world knows along the lines of agricultural science, to do your 
people good, and that has always been in your mind. 

In a month or two I shall have been here for fourteen years. In 
looking back over what I have been doing, I have come to the con- 
clusion that it w^as w^orth doing, and that there is no justification for 
a man’s holding a position in the Federal or State Government serv’- 
ice unless he has succeeded in making his service valuable to his fel- 
low men. 

So go on, my dear Carver. You are not going to surprise me by 
anything you may elaborate, because I know the thoroughness of 
your fundamental training. The old doctors around Ames did good 
work wdth you, and you are a very industrious student. 

Wishing you the full realization of your highest and holiest aspira- 
tions, I remain, your friend, 


(Signed) James ^S'ILSON 



Heard from Heaven Toda/^ 


Boll weevil, where you been so long? 

You stole my cotton, now you wants my co’n. 

T«. WAS TO BECOME the universal plaint of the 
Southland. The dangerous little beetle began creeping up 
from Mexico into Texas in 1904. It would inevitably con- 
tinue its insidious spread. Professor Carver, the mycologist, 
saw the danger long before it got in its deadly work. By 1910 
the boll weevil was unmistakably on its way and very close. 
He issued a warning : “The boll weevil is advancing this way 
at a rapid rate. Better get ready.” 

Getting ready, to Professor Carver, meant not merely pre- 
paring to combat it; so few control measures could be taken. 
Spraying with calcium arsenate was only a specific if ap- 
plied to each individual cotton plant, and the price was al- 
most prohibitive for the poorer farmers. But by planting 
early and cultivating and gathering early they might stand a 
better chance of escaping some of the ravages. It was “im- 
portant that every farmer look ahead and secure cotton of 
the greatest vitality, the fastest growing, and the earliest 
ripening.” Speed was of the essence, if anything were to 

be saved. 

He had always taken advantage of a short cotton crop to 
pound home the moral of the inexpressible evil of depending 
on one crop. An abundant crop was as disastrous to the 
farmers as a poor crop; any crop was disastrous, if they only 

knew it. . 

To be happy the farmer must raise his hvmg at home. 

Professor Carver described how he had walked in unexpect- 

edly on one family, just in time for supper. And supper had 


223 



^7 Heard from Heaven Today” 223 

consisted of ham raised on the place, butter, also home- 
made, two kinds of canned fruit, eggs, and syrup on biscuits 
made from flour which had been purchased from the 
surplus. 

Should the boll weevil prove as destructive as it had else- 
where, and there was no reason to suppose it would not, the 
slipshod farmer would be forced, willy-nilly, to learn in- 
telligence and thrift. Thus it might prove to be a blessing 
instead of a curse. 

“Help must come, and that right early,’’ thought the pro* 
fessor. Nothing could stay the weevil, but he urged them to 
prepare for it by planting less cotton and, to take the place 
of a cash crop, planning to raise a surplus of cowpeas, sweet 
potatoes, and peanuts to sell. 

Of the leguminous crops the cowpea had proved itself the 
poor man’s bank as a soil and health builder. The fuzzy 
velvet bean, which grew well, but not extensively, was an 
excellent stock food. Few people in this country, with the 
notable exception of Professor Carver, had even heard of the 
soybean until 1907 when the Department of Agriculture in- 
stituted experimentation on imported plants and tried adapt- 
ing it to American soils and climatic conditions. Professor 
Carver had already tried his own hand at experimentation, 
and successfully. This was because he was personally in- 
terested and not because he thought he could suggest any- 
thing so radical to Southern farmers, who would not know 
how to cope with this strange and unfamiliar plant. 

They had, on the other hand, grown up with the peanut — 
knew what it looked like, when it flowered, how it tucked 
itself into the ground. All they had to do was enlarge those 
little patches they were used to cultivating for the children 
and increase them into acres. 

Peanuts are indigenous to South America. Mani, as they 
were known in Quecha, as well as pottery images of them 
have been found in Peruvian tombs by archaeologists. Ap- 
parendy they were well liked by the Incas, to have been 
buried with the dead, and by the archaeologists, also, who 



224 George Washington Carver 

roasted and ate their finds. We know, too, they were relished 
by the conquistadors, who carried them to Spain, whence 
they found their ^vay to Africa as early as the seventeenth 
century and came back again to the New World in the slave 
traders, as the chief food of the captives. “Goober” is one of 
the few African words that have survived in this country. 

Thus the peanut might be considered native to African 
descendants. It was easy to plant, easy to grow, easy to har- 
vest; in fact, it grew almost by itself. Being one of the few 
crops which could stand successfully long, dry periods, in 
drouth it just curled up and waited for rain, and then raced 
to maturity. Though primarily a tropical plant, it adapted 
itself easily to the temperate zone. Unique among the 
Leguminosae, after the flower withered, the stalk stretched, 
bent do\\'n, and forced the young pod into the soil, where it 
ripened. This explained its name in England, “ground nut,” 
and in France, “pistache de terre,’' and its botanical name, 
Arachis hypogae a— Greek words meaning “weed” and 
“under.” 

The peanut almost equaled sirloin for proteins and po- 
tatoes for carbohydrates, and was inferior only to butter in 
fat. Professor Carver had started publishing recipes for cook- 
ing peanuts for the table before 1913, but these were con- 
stantly being augmented, and the bulletin was in its sixth 
edition by 1916, carrying directions for growing and one 
hundred five ways of preparing it for human consumption. 

Ever)' girl at the Institute, no matter what trade she was 
studying, had to learn cooking and practice homemaking. 
Taking fourteen of these recipes. Professor Carver instructed 
a class of senior girls who were studying dietetics in the 
varied usages of the peanut, and they served a five-course 
luncheon to Mr. Washington and nine guests— soup, mock 
chicken, creamed as a vegetable, salad, bread, candy, cookies, 
ice cream, coffee-all from peanuts; and as varied and tasty 

as one could ask. , 

Coffee County, Alabama, accepted Professor Carvers 

warning literally and shifted from a cotton- to a peanut- 



Heard from Heaven Today” 225 

growing community. It had been on the verge of bank- 
ruptcy in 1915 because of the ravages of the boll weevil, but 
after its change of heart and manner, within four years it 
became the most prosperous county in the state. Its chief 
town. Enterprise, put up a twenty-five-thousand-dollar shell- 
ing plant in 1919, and acknowledged its indebtedness to Pro- 
fessor Carver by erecting a three-thousand-dollar monument 
in a little grassy square in the center of the town. The legend 
on one side read: “In profound appreciation of the boll wee- 
vil and what it has done. As the herald of prosperity, this 
monument was erected by the citizens of Enterprise, Coffee 
County, Alabama.” By 1934 the county held the world 
record for production, perhaps inspired by the tinkling 
fountain and the miniature lady and her lights. At any rate, 
she stands as a symbol of gratitude for deliverance from 
cotton bondage. 

But this success came later — after Professor Carver had 
solved another problem which had arisen. 

Many individual farmers had been persuaded to grow 
Leguminosae comparatively early. A very few owners had 
planted a large acreage of peanuts w'hich were ready for 
market. But what market? The Southern system, including 
the banks, was geared to cotton. Enough peanuts to fill the 
paper bags at carnivals and circuses were already being 
imported from the Far East and had been for years. Who 
would buy these additional peanuts? 

Among the owners in this predicament was a widow who 
had been managing a large plantation. She had recognized 
as logical all the arguments against the one-crop system and 
the necessity for another cash crop. She had planted peanuts. 
She was puzzled and put the problem squarely up to Pro- 
fessor Carver. Now that she had reached this stage, w'hat 
was she to do? She had peanuts in quantity, but no buyer. 

Professor Carver went away from that conversation 
greatly troubled. He felt he had made a blunder; he had not 
thought far enough. He had offered only a half truth, and a 
half truth was no better than a lie. He could not believe that 



226 


George Washington Carver 

he was fundamentally wrong about the two crops — ^sweet 
potatoes and peanuts — on which he had crystallized his 
efforts, but somehow they would have to be fitted into the 
sorr\ scheme of things. They still could be made the life- 
savers of the South if markets could be found. It was up to 
him to create those markets. 

In nati\’e plants, mineral wealth, and man power, which 
form the bases of national wealth, the southeastern section 
of the United States was better favored than almost any 
other part of the globe. Yet it remained among the poorest. 
Race and class fears in this land of neglected opportunity 
made the communities sterUe. Professor Carver did not think 
merely in terms of helping to hft his people, but all people 
who were in need. The Negro and the South were inter- 
dependent; if the South could be rehabilitated, the general 
scale would rise. 

One important tvay was to build up native industries. 
Even though the South would probably remain largely 
agricultural, a really prosperous agriculture needed many 
new industries for processing products, supplying its equip- 
ment, and balancing its economy. 

Professor Car\’er retired to God’s Little Workshop to 
wrestle with the immediate question. In his soUtary moments 
he meditated long over the implications of the boll weevil, 
and decided that God had sent it in order to develop a New 
South — a South of factories as well as farms. 

He devoutly believed that a personal relationship with the 
Creator of all things was the only foundation for the 
abundant fife. He had a Utde story in which he related his 

experience: 

I asked the Great Creator what the universe was made for. 

“Ask for something more in keeping with that Utde mind 

of yours,” He replied. 

“What was man made for?” 

“Little man, you still want to know too much. Cut down 
the extent of your request and improve the intent. 



"/ Heard from Heaven Today’’ 227 

Then I told the Creator I wanted to know all about the 
peanut. He replied that my mind was too small to know all 
about the peanut, but He said He would give me a handful 
of peanuts. And God said, “Behold, I have given you every 
herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth . . . 
to you it shall be for meat. ... I have given every green 
herb for meat : and it was so.” 

I carried the peanuts into my laboratory and the Creator 
told me to take them apart and resolve them into their ele- 
ments. With such knowledge as I had of chemistry and 
physics I set to work to take them apart. I separated the 
water, the fats, the oils, the gums, the resins, sugars, starches, 
pectoses, pentosans, amino acids. There! I had the parts of 
the peanuts all spread out before me. 

I looked at Him and He looked at me. “Now, you know 
what the peanut is.” 

“Why did you make the peanut?” 

The Creator said, “I have given you three laws ; namely, 
compatibility, temperature, and pressure. All you have to do 
is take these constituents and put them together, observing 
these laws, and I will show you why I made the peanut.” 

I therefore went on to try different combinations of the 
parts under different conditions of temperature and pres- 
sure, and the result was what you see. 

Valuable contributions to the sum of human knowledge 
had already been made by Professor Carver in many fields — 
botany, mycology, genetics, agriculture, dietetics. From the 
time of his arrival at Tuskegee he had also been experiment- 
ing with the most vital of all — creative science. Now he was 
beginning to devote his energies to it in earnest. He saw the 
development of man as falling into three stages: Finding, 
Adapting, Creating. First was the utilization of things Na- 
ture had provided; the second was characterized by a re- 
arrangement of the materials — stones, ores, fibers, skins, 
metals— on which industry was based, so they might assume 
a more useful role; third was the transformation of those 



228 George Washington Carver 

materials into more and in some instances entirely new ones 
for the protection and comfort of man. 

A very large proportion of any farm crop was inedible and 
therefore sheer waste. His answer to the surplus problem was 
simple and direct. “Find new uses for this waste, and thus 
enlarge the usefulness of the product to mankind.” 

Professor Carv^er abhorred waste, and from his laboratory 
by-products rushed into the vacuum. He had a \ 4 sion in 
which he saw that farms could be transformed into some- 
thing more than mere food factories; they could become a 
source of the raw material of industry. This was an idea 
which was to capture the imagination of millions when it 
was advanced by white industrialists thirty years later. 

When the cowpea was brought into the laboratory it did 
not prove to have the potentiaUties of the velvet bean, from 
which he made flour, starch, stains, dyes, wood fillers of 
different colors, ink, and, from the stalb, a substitute for 
excelsior packing. Because of his great interest, he was lec- 
turing on the soybean and the derivatives he had found — 
flour, meal, coffee, breakfast food, oil, milk — long before it 
had been picked up by Midwestern growers. However, for 
industrial purposes he could not emphasize the soybean be- 
cause of Southern unfamiliarity. 

He concentrated his efforts, therefore, on the peanut, and 
from this storehouse of wonders combinations in many curi- 
ous and uncommon forms poured in a never-ending stream— 
gastronomicallv, from soup to nuts a dozen beverages, 
mixed pickles, sauces (^Vorcestershire and chili), meal, in- 
stant and dry coffee, salve, bleach, tan remover, wood 
filler, washing powder, metal polish, paper, mk, plastics, 
shaving cream, rubbing oil, linoleum, shampoo, axle grease, 
s>Tithetic rubber. If the Institute prepared a list, it was out of 
date before it could be printed. Some offered immediate pos- 
sibilities for commercialization, some might be only curi- 
osities, but you never could tell. . , , , j 

The peanut was 32 per cent oil and the oil particles lacked 

the gelatinous membrane common to animal fat; hence, a 



"7 Heard from Heaven Today” 229 

hydrogenator or catalyzer could be used to reduce the pea- 
nut oil to oleo. The fat globules could be broken to a lesser 
or greater extent to produce milk which would not curdle 
in cooking or when acids were added, and which contained 
all the elements of cows’ milk, being low only in calcium. 
Cream would rise upon it which could be turned into butter 
without souring. The cream could be removed to produce 
buttermilk, and from either an inexpensive, palatable, and 
long-lasting cheese could be manufactured; where a hun- 
dred pounds of cows’ milk made ten pounds of cheese, the 
same amount of peanut milk made thirty-five pounds. 

This milk proved to be truly a lifesaver in the Belgian 
Congo. Cows could not be kept there because of leopards 
and flies, so if a mother died her baby was buried with her ; 
there was nothing to nourish it. Missionaries fed the infants 
peanut milk, and they flourished. 

To conserve the enormous waste of other than the edible 
portion of crops. Professor Carver had investigated the 
potentialities of the majority of Southern harvests for uses 
other than human consumption and began studies to “find 
ways of utilizing the millions of tons of lignin and cellulose 
that were being discarded yearly as invaluable material.” 

He thought it would be interesting to transform dull saw- 
dust into shining slabs of synthetic marble. When he had 
added the adhesive and pigment and given it a high polish, 
it was strong, substantial, and weatherproof. Its production 
would offer an inexpensive way to utilize the waste of lumber 
mills and at the same time bring a colorful richness into the 
homes of those who could not afford to liv'e in marble halls. 

Toward the same end he made serviceable wallboard of 
caladium, wistaria, peanut shells, pine cones, banana stems, 
cotton, pecan hulls, and many other Southern plants. 

He had for some time been interested in native fibers and 
their commercial possibilities. Such v^ast amounts of spruce 
were going into the ever-increasing amount of newsprint 
that inevitably the available supply of forests was going to 
be reduced to a dangerous point. In 1910 he produced a 



230 George Washington Carver 

paper from slash pine, extracting the fiber by hand, since he 
had no mill. Though the amount was small, it did point the 
way to anyone who cared to follow. From yucca and peanut 
skin he produced paper as fine as linen, which might even be 
used for cloth. He tried his hand also with spiny mallow, 
tomato stems, the prickly Sida spinosa, and thirteen other 
native plants. From the bare skeletons of cotton stalks left 
standing in the fields from season to season he made paper 
and rope and fiber rugs. 

When he was exhibiting at a fair he was always on hand 
early to arrange his exhibit, and this happened one morning 
at Montgomery. Two white farmers who had their own 
exhibit already prepared were wandering about to look at 
other showings before the gates should open and the public 
flock in. They stopped before the large booth filled with rugs, 
and nothing but rugs, of Professor Carver. 

One farmer lifted up a label, read it, and then shot out a 
stream of tobacco juice. He looked at another label and spat 
again. “Well, I’ll declare! Okra stalk, eh? Made outa okra 
stalk. S’pose that’s so? Here, you” — and he beckoned to Pro- 
fessor Carver, who was hanging around, interested to know 
what their reaction would be — “d’ya know anything about 
this exhibit?” 

“Yes sir. It’s mine.” 

“You made it?” 

“Yes sir, just what you see.” 

“He says okra stalk,” the man exclaimed to his compan- 
ion, and poured out another stream of tobacco juice and 
shook and laughed. “Okra stalk! WeU, glad you found some 
use for it; ’tisn’t fit to eat!” 

Professor Carver’s work was not confined to class or race. 
Since only the whites were landowners and had capital it 
might be considered of greater significance to them because 
they could make immediate use of it. They seldom did, how- 
ever, though he attempted to bring more of the South’s 
mineral wealth to the attention of those who were in a posi- 
tion to exploit it. 



Heard from Heaven Today” 231 

Alabama was surpassing rich ; her marble was comparable 
to that of Italy. The remarkable development of cement 
manufacture was due to the practically inexhaustible de- 
posits of limestone. The exploitation of her coal and iron 
resources had been begun in the latter part of the nineteenth 
century, but these, as well as most of the zinc and bauxite, 
were owned outside and shipped outside. The South would 
make a bid for Northern capital and then resent it when 
it came. 

Meanwhile, other types of mineral wealth were still lying 
dormant. In his rambles Professor Carver picked up lumps 
of pure malleable copper, the basic copper carbonate called 
azurite, 90 per cent pure cyanite. He followed a deposit of 
bentonite, which could be used to de-ink newspapers and 
thus make them usable again, and found it to extend into a 
large and exceptionally pure deposit near Montgomery and 
as far south as Mobile. Among the raw materials virtually 
begging to be brought to the uses of man were heavy 
oxides of iron, manganese, graphite, sugar quartz, and 
“glittering everpvhere” were heat-resisting, non-conducting 
micas, so necessary in the electrical industry and very effec- 
tive for decorative purposes. Professor Carver found cal- 
careous tripoli and siliceous tripoli, from which he made a 
universal scouring powder, and clay fine enough for talcum 
powder, which could be borated, thus providing an open- 
ing for some enterprising manufacturer. 

Much of Alabama’s mineral wealth lay in its clay de- 
posits: clays of rare beauty and real commercial value. Here 
in abundance was white clay produced by the decomposition 
of feldspar, ready to hand for molding a fine kaolin — which 
in Chinese means high hill. 

Once when Professor Carver was invited to Indiana to 
give a lecture he happened to see a vase which had been 
bought for twenty-five dollars. He admired it so much he set 
about to discover the source of the porcelain, and traced it to 
Georgia. In that stare and in Alabama china clays were be- 
ing sold at a low cost to manufacturers in the North: the 



232 George Washington Carver 

finished wares were then purchased by Southerners at a high 
price. He wanted to see this industry carried on in the South 
itself. Now and again a jug factory would spring up, make a. 
few chums, jars, crocks, vases, and flower pots, sell them 
out, and then mysteriously disappear, leaving nothing per- 
manent behind. 

As an experiment in ceramics he built himself a little pot- 
ter’s kick wheel and shaped vases, decorating them with 
charming tree and flower sketches. He was not a potter, but 
merely desired to prove to Southerners who might see his 
wares that china clays could be mined and processed. 

Along with other leaders of thought, both ^vhite and col- 
ored, Professor Car\'er realized that as long as the policy of 
the South remained faulty, the basis of her economy would 
remain weak. As long as her farm population remained be- 
low the highest cultural level it was capable of attaining, the 
culture of the entire region would remain deficient. He was 
dealing directly with farmers, the barometer of the nation’s 
progress. He was showing them, at first hand, how they 
could individually improve their standards and, even though 
desperately poor, make for themselves a native culture. 

At a flat-topped desk in a little upstairs room in the agri- 
cultural building, piled with pamphlets, mail, bottles, rocks, 
plants, and glue, he painstakingly worked out wallpaper de- 
signs colored with clay and thirteen subtle color combina- 
tions for cold-^vater washes. Bulletin No. 449, issued from 
Washington in 1912 by the Federal Government, reports on 
his washes and repeats his directions. 

These washes, however, merely covered the surface. The 
woods commonly in use for furniture and inside woodwork 
were the softer, cheaper ones— fir, cypress, pine— and re- 
quired stains which would penetrate to the sub-surface. So 
he produced a lovely, mellow series of these which would 
bring out the grain and make it glow: burnt straw, citrus, 
cocoa, licorice, lime green, mole, moss, ripe wheat, sea blue, 
slate, tobacco, zebra. 

At the Alabama State Exposition in 191 1 Professor Carver 



“1 Heard from Heaven Today’^ 233 

showed an impressive array of clay products, including sam- 
ples of color washes— red, pink, lavender, purple, green, yel- 
low, blue — and furniture stains. His exhibit of these and a 
sweet potato which weighed eight and four tenths pounds 
shared honors with the one-legged man, the high slider, and 
the balloon ascension. 

All of this work Professor Carver had to do from the shoul- 
der. It was hard to get the people to progress. Only a few 
were really interested, and he suffered many discourage- 
ments. He had no appropriation for a demonstration of his 
stains, but had to use what scraps of wood he could find. He 
wanted to stain one of the buildings on the grounds, but the 
superintendent said it wasn’t good enough. 

However, he was soon given an opportunity. When the 
Episcopalian church was being built in the town in 1912, 
architecturally charming but handicapped for lack of funds, 
paints were priced, and the only suitable one cost four dol- 
lars a gallon. The congregation brought its problem to Pro- 
fessor Carver, and from his laboratory he sent to his white 
friends a stain which cost seventy-five cents a gallon. That 
was thirty years ago and, with the passage of time, the wood 
has put on richness, depth, and luminosity. This was Pro- 
fessor Carver’s first sizable demonstration of his stains, and 
it gave him heart to sound again a hopeful note of manufac- 
turing possibilities. 

The exhibits of Professor Carver were a visual means of 
focusing pubhc attention ; he was lecturing in pictures. The 
astute Mr. Washington recognized the propaganda value of 
this type of production when put on view at fairs as an ex- 
ample of what a Negro mind was capable. The two of them 
were standing on the broad steps of the dining hall, just as 
Washington was about to start on a trip to the North. 

“Have you completed your Macon County exhibit?” he 
asked. 

“No, it will never be completed. But I have at least two 
freight carloads ready.” 

I m certain your Macon County exhibit will do more to 



234 George Washington Carver 

convince Southern white men of the value of Negro educa- 
tion than anything that has come to us.” He pondered for a 
moment, and then suggested, “Why wouldn’t it be a good 
idea to have a train exhibit? We could show it at Birming- 
ham and Montgomery when the Legislature is in session and 
after that decide where to go next.” 

Professor Carver agreed that the proposal was worth con- 
sidering. 

“Well, good-by. Let’s think it over.” 

“We’ll think it over. Good-by.” 

And that was their final parting. 

Booker T. Washington made his last speech in New Haven 
on October 25, 1915 — an appeal for race understanding. 
He was brought back to Tuskegee to die, November 14, hav- 
ing given his life in the service of the Institute. The towns- 
people of Tuskegee mourned his passing as sincerely as the 
colored folk to whom he had dedicated himself. 

Frederick Douglass had died just before the momentous 
Atlanta speech. He had led his people out of slavery. Wash- 
ington had taught these freed men how to live as free men in 
mastering trades and agriculture. On the third of these great 
guides — all bom to be slaves — Professor Carver, the quiet 
scientist, devolved the duty of conducting the race on to the 
next step by putting the laboratory at the disposal not merely 
of the farmer but also of the industrialist. 

Theodore Roosevelt came down to deliver a eulogy on his 
friend Washington. When the memorial service was over, 
and before the mountain of flowers had withered, he sought 
Professor Carver to say good-by. As they walked together 
arm in arm to the train which was to take Roosevelt away 
he said half-humorously, “I think you do things much as I 
do, though that may not be a credit to you. You study first, 
then come to a decision, and then stick to that decision. We 
can neither be worked, walked, nor talked down.” He, too, 
recognized Professor Carver’s significant position and, more 
seriously, he added, “There is no more important work than 
that you are doing.” 



"/ Heard from Heaven Today” 235 

Founder’s Day at Tuskegee Institute was established in 
1917 and has been held in commemoration every year there- 
after on the Sunday nearest April 6, which was as close as 
anyone could guess at Washington’s birthday. Ex-President 
Taft, Judge Landis, Jane Addams, and similar friends of 
the underprhileged were there to evidence respect for the 
memory of a great man. The campus had become one of the 
most beautiful to be found an)where, dotted with bursting 
redbuds like smaU, pink, low-lying clouds. Dripping wistaria, 
white and purple, loosed its fragrance on the clear, spring 
air. When such days come to Tuskegee, of almost unearthly 
charm, one person will greet another with, “Lovely weather 
we’re ha\ing.” And the response is, “Yes, a regular Booker 
Washington day.” 

The presence of their principal still per\'ades the school. 
If something occurs which should not have occurred, the old 
people say that Booker ^V’^ashington must be sleeping. And 
if a door bangs when no man is near it, then Washington 
has just passed through, keeping an eye on things as he used 
to do. His gravestone is a rough-hewn boulder of granite, but 
his monument is one of the noblest ever erected by man, Tus- 
kegee Institute itself. 



CHAPTER XVIII 


^^Down Came the Heavenly Manna^^ 


^ROFESSOR CARVER could DOt think with equav 
nimity in terms of anything that involved controversy or con- 
tention. This applied not merely to his immediate surround- 
ings and petty disputes, but to the larger aspect of war. How- 
ever, when the war came in 1 9 1 7 be issued a plea to Negroes 
to join hands, hearts, and interest with the rest of the na- 
tion. “A race that will not prove itself indispensable when 
the world is in a crisis does not deserve and need not look for 
recognition in times of peace and prosperity. 

His Tuskegee boys had something more than muscle and 
something more than song, and his hopes were fulfilled as he 
watched them set out to join Negro companies, one of which 
bore a banner, “We are going to show the worM^ that fast 
black won’t run.” They were carrying on the tradition, in the 
same spirit of earnestness and devotion as the Negro ser- 
geant William Carney, in the Civil War, who had assured 
•his commanding officer, “With God’s help I will bring back 
the colors with honor, or else report to Him the reason why.^ 
Though wounded in head and legs he had fulfiUed his 
promise and, as he returned, he proudly announced, e 
old flag never touched the ground.” The first man to die m 
the American Revolution was Crispus Attucks, a Negro ; e 
first man in the A.E.F. in 1918 to receive the Croix de Guerre 
with star and palm was Henry Johnson, a Negro. 

Professor Carver served his country after his o\^ fashion, 
accepting the war as a challenge to help further the ways of 
peace The United States had been dependent on Germany 
for its chemicals, fertilizers, and dyes. In fact, Germany sup- 



'‘Down Came the Heavenly Manna” 237 

plied the commercial world with aniline dyes. When the war 
stopped importation, industries that required dyes — print- 
ing, paint, paper, leather, and clothing — were suddenly 
thrown back fifty years and had to return again to using nat- 
ural colors, such as fustic and cochineal. 

To be sure, thought Professor Carver, aniline dyes were 
the best, but could not vegetable dyes be perfected? He 
started across the fields and over the hills and into the 
swamps in search of the trees and flowers which would read- 
ily yield their latent colors. From leaf, root, stem, and fruit 
of twenty-eight plants he squeezed 536 dyes which could be 
used on leather, cotton, wool, silk, and linen and ^s'hich 
would not fade in washing or in light. If they could stand up 
under the fierce Alabama sun, they would stand up under 
anything. 

These were merely basic colors. Only a professional and 
technical expert who understood cross-dyeing could deal 
with them properly. The head of a great dyestuffs firm 
offered Professor Carver a blank check for him to fill in, 
saying they would equip a laborator)' if he would take charge 
of it, at his own salary. This offer he declined, but he was 
pleased that he might have given them something \vith 
which to proceed. A woman from the Department of Agri- 
culture spent several days going over his records and then 
wrote an enthusiastic report — without, how'ever, mention- 
ing his name. Then the United States Government confis- 
cated the German patents, and the crisis was over. 

The possibility of a food shortage loomed in 1914 as it did 
in 1940. War had set many extra mouths gaping with hun- 
ger, and Tuskegee joined in encouraging that part of the 
w^orld over w^hich it had influence to raise more food to win 
the w’ar. In the Pavihon was held a public-school exhibit 
of onions, beans, cabbages, coUards, and radishes, with such 
slog^ as, “A bountiful food supply spells strength and vic- 
tory,” and “No hungry nation can long protect its flag.” 
There was the flag, in which turnips and beets made up the 
stripes, and scrubbed and shiny potatoes twinkled as stars. 



238 George Washington Carver 

He was walking back from the Milbank Building one 
afternoon when a tramp, miserable and forlorn and concave 
where he should have been convex, materialized out- of the 
bushes and edged up. “Could you give me a dime for some- 
thing to eat?” 

Professor Carver fished out the ten cents and watched the 
man elongate his legs in the direction of the shops, less than 
a quarter of a mile away. Sadly he shook his head, which 
^vas growing gray over the shortsightedness of his brothers 
and sisters on this earth who would not see what their eyes 
beheld. 

“It’s pitiful, pitiful,” he said to his companion. “Between 
here and that store there’s enough food to feed a town.” He 
pointed to the weeds growing beside the road and to the wild 
plums ov'erhead. “And a balanced diet too.” 

It was uphill work persuading more than a handful of 
farmers of the value of raising vegetables — of fighting King 
Cotton with such a puny weapon as logic. 

But Professor Carv'er hearkened to Isaiah, who had heark- 
ened to the Lord: “The voice said, Cry. And he said. What 
shall I cry?” Then the voice told him what to say. “All flesh 
is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the 
field.” Isaiah had his ear to the ground, and by listening 
Professor Carver heard also. The voice said to him, go and 
get it, so he did. 

In most places you had to put your foot down carefully as 
you stepped out the cabin door or it would crush a cotton 
plant— and that meant crushing what represented money. 
But along the fence rows weeds sprouted luxuriantly; and a 
wild vegetable by any other name would taste as good. 

One definition of a weed was any plant growing in ground 
that had been cultivated, usually to the detriment of the 
crop; it was economically useless and possessed exuberant 
growth. Well, said Professor Carver, all weeds were plants, 
all plants could be weeds, but no plant need be a wee no 
if you reduced the definition to its essentials; a weed was a 
plant out of place. Okra in a cornfield was a weed because it 



“Down Came the Heavenly Manna'* 239 

was out of place. So was the cocklebur in a wheat field, but 
in its proper place it could become an important medicinal 
crop. 

As for the exuberant growth of weeds, Nature scattered 
billions of seeds. Only a few survived ; the weaker perished. 
It was the law of life. Some plants were cultivated carefully, 
guarded from fungus diseases and insect enemies. But often 
the wild plants were more palatable than the cultivated 
ones, which had been robbed of vitality by coddling. The 
lowly ones without the fence had strength of character ; they 
would dare to come up earlier than the tenderly nurtured 
within the enclosure, and would still be flourishing when the 
short growing span of the latter was finished. You did not 
have to hoe around them or pick bugs off or spray ; they were 
there because they had already mastered the rules for sur- 
vival. 

In their respective seasons Professor Carver had for a long 
time included wild vegetables in his own diet — clover tops, 
dandelion, wild lettuce, chicory, rabbit tobacco, alfalfa, 
thistles, bed straw, pepper grass, wild geranium, purslane, 
hawkweed. Flora’s paintbrush, water cress, shepherd’s- 
purse. The dainty chickweed, which was pretty as to appear- 
ance and delicate as to taste, could be happily combined in 
salads or stews, cold or hot. Curled dock made as good a pie 
as its cultivated cousin the cultivated rhubarb. From sour 
grass, or old-fashioned sheep sorrel, he made not merely pies 
but confectionery and paint. 

A little earlier than asparagus in most localities, the tender 
shoots of the pokeweed poked up through the soil. These 
were as delicate and delicious as the asparagus tips, which 
they resembled, as was also the swamp milkweed. Evening 
primrose, so pink as to be almost red, grew in masses. 

Lamb s-quarters, choicest of vegetables, was scattered 
over the temperate and subtropical sections of the country, 
^d was available from early until late summer. It made an 
immense amount of green stuff, was tender, crisp, and 
cooked easily. Before McCollum tested it on his rats and an- 



240 


George Washington Carver 


nounced it contained the Fat Soluble A — one of the newly 
discovered and much-needed properties called “vitamines 
Professor Carver had proclaimed its high medicinal value. 

Most wild vegetables had a short season in which they 
were tender but, being robust in flavor, they would keep 
well. The housewife could pack them in cans or jars and 
have shelves full of winter succulence. And, since jars were 
hard to come by for the really poor, they could be dried. 
That way they were practically imperishable and required 
little storage space. Dehydrating wild vegetables seemed an 
excellent way to save the country’s granary from the nibbling 
mice of waste. 

The crop of peaches was overabundant that year, so Pro- 
fessor CaiA^er advocated drying them. “We have become a 
tin-can people and like to have things come to us in conven- 
ient packages. Now we must rediscover many of the old ways 
of saving food; this so-called reversion wll actually spell 


progress.” ^ . v 

One of the results of his simple dehydrating techmque he 

called fruit leathers; reduce the overripe fruit to a pulp, roU 
it out like a piece of piecrust, dry it, and then cut it into 
strips and tuck it away in jars. This was an old Pompeian 

confection, and his method was merely a revival. 

Professor Car\^er ventured a prediction: “Fifteen hundre 
years ago the sweet potato and the peanut were grovm. But 
from then until a few years ago baiing, frying, and toiling 
represented nearly the sum total of the processes throug 
which the sweet potato could be carried. Peanuts were com- 
monly considered fit only for monkey food. But rreenUy we 
began the real discovery of the sweet potato ^d the peanm 
and out of these discoveries is going to come the opportumty 
for making the Southland the richest and most prosperous 

"“he reiterated that if all vegetable foorUtuffs 
were destroyed except these two stricUy Southern pjluc^ 
the oeanut and the sweet potato, we could live on them 
Sone and be perfectly hearty, and we would still have a per- 



“Down Came the Heavenly Manna” 241 

fectly balanced ration for man and his animals — starch and 
sugar from the sweet potato and protein from the peanut — 
and both could be prepared in so many different ways that 
“the palate will not tire nor the digestion suffer from a 
monotonous sameness.” 

His most extensive researches at this time involved sweet 
potatoes. He had previously tried out various means of re- 
ducing the storage losses on this perishable but valuable 
food which were militating against its becoming a money 
crop, and had made a multitude of products, from shoe pol- 
ish to rubber which could be vulcanized. 

But just now the ingenuity of the people was being tested 
to find economical, nutritious, and palatable foods. Germany 
was supposed to have some six hundred and fifty substitutes, 
and could we not find a few to fill the shortages? Germany 
made egg white from fish protein, Professor Carver made 
yolk from a Puerto Rican sweet potato. From the same 
vegetable he concocted tapioca, a breakfast food, and a del- 
icacy which tasted like ginger. He manufactured a syrup 
which was comparable to Midwest corn syrup in quality and 
lower in cost, and vinegar and domestic alcohol. 

Another way to make the most of the sweet potato was to 
utilize its starch content as a flour; and he developed three 
types; the first two, from cooked sweet potatoes, could be 
produced by the housewife who possessed no more equip- 
ment than her rusty, broken, little wood stove and table and 
meager kitchen tools. 

By adding one third of this sweet-potato flour to two thirds 
of the regulation wheat flour, the dining hall at Tuskegee 
Institute was able to eliminate two hundred pounds of wheat 
flour or, to put it differently, save twelve dollars a day. 

The United States was short on wheat; much of it was 
being sunk m the Atlantic by submarines. Flours from bar- 
ley, rice, corn, chestnuts, cassava, and Irish potatoes had all 
been tried and pretty generally pronounced unfit for mak- 
mg bread such as Americans were accustomed to. 

In January of 1918 Professor Carv^er was summoned to 



2^2 George Washington Carver 

Washington “to demonstrate the products of the sweet po- 
tato with which he has been successfully dealing during the 
past year,” and exhibit its possibilities, especially as a 
breadmaker.” He had several meetings with different groups 
of Army bakers, chemists, dieticians, technicians, and trans- 
portation authorities. 

These last were invited to the conclave because his work 
in dehydration was of especial interest to them in wartime. 
Successful dehydration of foods would not merely insure 
their keeping indefinitely, but greatly decrease both weight 
and bulk— all of which factors were of vital importance 

when cargo space was so limited. 

Most of the experts were inclined to be somewhat skepti- 
cal at first. But after Professor Carver had actually made the 
bread in the bakery for the committee to sample, as he mod- 
estly mentioned, “they were greatly interested and pleased 
with it.” They decided the sweet potato was the greatest 
conserver of wheat flour that had yet been found and that it 


could also help conserve sugar. 

A Washington daily reported that he “appears devoted o 
the task of producing new uses for the products of the soi 
to bring about a greater consumption.” It commented on hn 
pleasing personality and admired his handling of words with 

a view to their precise meaning. j «cnVt- 

In this interview he had said, “I do not like the wor - 
stitute’ as applied to my products. I prefer to let eaeh stan 
on its own merits.” According to his interpretation, the word 
tended to imply that such a creation was not 8^ as * 
real thing, but was used only on sufferance when the rea 
thing was not available. Synthetic, on the other hand, wM 
“a fLrth kingdom of Nature, entirely within the control of 
man beneficent when compatible elements are joine , m 



“Down Came the Heavenly Manna” 243 

The big laboratories will eventually be moved to the farms 
where they can be close to production.” 

A few enthusiastic observers decided immediately that the 
sweet-potato acreage must be increased, and began to plan 
for a large drier, costing in the neighborhood of four thou- 
sand dollars, to be erected somewhere in the South to han- 
dle ten thousand bushels. 

Professor Carver returned to Tuskegee meditating in a 
pleased way on how he had in some measure been able to 
prove that the better a man were educated the better could 
he serve his community and his country by showing that their 
interests were identical. Firmly he held to the belief which 
was to be put to the test in 1940 that, a nation being made 
up of individuals, the problem of one is the problem of all 
and one group cannot long prosper at the expense of an- 
other; each man is the keeper of all his brothers wherever 
they may be on the globe, and an evil which afflicts one man 
afflicts all men everywhere. 

The sweet-potato bulletin he published that summer was 
reprinted in agricultural and home-economics journals, in 
dailies, weeklies, and monthlies, in the Literary Digest and 
the Ladies^ Home Journal. He was called “the Negro wizard 
of agricultural research in chemistry.” One publication re- 
marked that this quiet, resourceful, hard-working, extraor- 
dinary black man of genius was returning convincing, posi- 
tive answers to those who were seeking to find new indus- 
trial outlets for the growing population of the South; his 
exhibit showed he had caught the vision of a greater indus- 
trial South, and that he was interested in doing the basic 
work of finding new uses for ever-ready materials. 

Sweet-potato flour was used in camps to augment wheat 
flour. At its current stage of production it could fill the gap 
in the shortage, but when normal production was resumed, 
it was more expensive than wheat. A bill for an appropria- 
tion of $250,000 was pending in Congress, a large part of 
which was to be allocated to propaganda in instructing the 



244 


George Washington Carver 


public concerning the potentialities of the sweet potato. But 
when the war crisis was over both the drier and the propa- 
ganda were dropped for twenty years. 

When a reporter inquired of Professor Carver concerning 
the attitude of the public toward his discoveries, he an- 
swered, “The discoverer must pass through three stages at 
least, each of which is unportant and quite natural. The first 
is the ‘knocking’ stage. Any new article offered to the public 
must meet certain hostile critics who say. This thing is no 
good; the man who puts this claim forward is very foolish; 
we don’t ^vant this newfangled thing; the old things are 
good enough for us.’ Ever>’body rises up against it, which 
is really a very good thing. The new product must meet suc- 
cessfully all the hostile tests. It must prove its superiority. 

“Then follows a stage of total apathy, when everybody 
apparently conspires to remain silent. Those ^vho know the 
facts concerning the discovery and know nothing against it 
just keep quiet or say, ‘Let this new thing dk a natural 
death.’ Those who don’t know the facts lose their mterest m 


^“Hovvever, there always comes to a really valuable and 
significant discovery that interesting third stage-a stage in 
which many people, including the former critics ^d apa- 
thetic observers, tumble over each other try'ing to boost Ae 
discoverer, his discovery, and everything connected with Ae 
nroiect Once it has sur\ived the second phase, every 

in .0 exploit it, and yon can be sure that the conuner- 

cial development will take care of Itself. 

As Professor Carver offered each of his new 
display someone inevitably _asked, “Now you have it. What 

^Td\t"mwett‘Tve done all I intend to^ My inte^ 
is scientific and not financial. If an “'vesugator 

business, he ceases to be an invesugator a is 

of the businessman.” m^irkpt’” 

“How are these products to be placed on the 
“I don’t know. It’s for the people to take these produc 



“Down Came the Heavenly Manna” 245 

and create the supply and demand. There must be a demand 
for every article supplied.” 

Cost figures were no concern of his, and ideas came crowd- 
ing so fast he lacked time to work on any one thing too long. 
Mr. W. Wade Moss, a young chemist who spent some time 
in his laboratory, wrote in the Manufacturers’ Record, July 
1930, that the professor was a prospector seeking gold, but 
when he had found it he left it to miners to dig for the 
metal. He accomplished the thing he was intended to do, 
which was to inspire others, and he abandoned each new 
trail at the stage where its value became obvious, that they 
might pick it up and carry it along. 

Very seldom did he take out any patents, and for much 
the same reason. If he attempted to patent every product 
he would be surrounded by patent ghouls and would get 
little else done. But, chiefly, he did not want to benefit spe- 
cific persons; his products should be available to all. 

Though the professor’s mail was phenomenally large, he 
tried to answer it promptly. He was always ready to help 
anyone who asked. From all over the United States, from 
Australia, South America, the Philippines, China, India, 
Africa, Japan, and Russia, came emissaries or letters. An 
American from Mohandas Gandhi’s ashrama came to con- 
sult him about improving the Indian diet by the use of pea- 
nuts, vegetables, and nuts growing in India. 

Sometimes the letters inclosed checks. Perhaps a Florida 
peanut grower’s crop had been damaged by disease; Pro- 
fessor Carver identified the fungus and suggested control 
measures, and the man forwarded a check as recompense. 
Or a cotton mill acknowledged its indebtedness with a hun- 
dred dollars. Back would go the check, in which he had no 
mterest, and the solution, whether it was how to dye cement 
or turn peanuts into linoleum. It might take time to assem- 
ble the information for a reply, but he could not write a let- 
ter fast enough to return money. There was no charge - his 
aid was without price. 

The best things, said he, could not be bought or sold. Their 



246 George Washington Carver 


value lay in human effort and devotion; the medium of ex- 
change was brotherhood, and the compensation was service. 
As for the additional money, what would be the good of it 
to him? His business was to create things, not buy or sell 
them. Having no use for more, he would only be troubled 
about the proper means of its disposal, and this would 
distract him from his work. 

Professor Carver still received the fifteen hundred dollars 
a year he had received when Booker T. Washington had 
asked him to join forces in helping to build a race, but even 
his salary checks meant so little that months would go by 
without his depositing them. 

He w^as profoundly disturbed by the emphasis most other 
people placed upon money. When Julius Rosemvald pre- 
sented the teachers %vho had been at Tuskegee a certain 
number of years with an honorarium, all were jubilant ex- 
cept Professor Carver. He bluntly called it a handout and 
declined his, though politely. He appreciated the spirit 
which had actuated the gift, but his attitude was the same 
as when he was a boy and someone had pitched him a quar- 
ter for a five-cent job. It smacked of the days when white 
people threw a coin to a slave very much as they would 


throw a bone to a dog. ^ 

This was the sort of “oddness” that contmually surprised 

other people, and he thought despairingly, “How long rnust 
one be with a person and still not know any more about h^ 
than on a first meeting?” To him, it was entirely reasonable 
that he should w^ant to be paid only the salary the schoo 

had aereed his services were worth. 

L ted come to the conclusion that the unthmbng and 
exaggerated value placed upon money was the most dearu^ 
rive Lgle Muence in the world. Where money could 
nut to a constructive use, however, he welcomed it m 



^‘Down Came the Heavenly Manna’* 


24 '/ 


For instance, he had given a dollar to a former student 
who had been unable to make his way at his trade, saying, 
“I want to see what you can do with this.” The man had 
purchased a hen for fifty cents, a setting of eggs for fifteen 
cents, and spent the rest for feed. When he reported to Pro- 
fessor Carver, he had saved fifty-one dollars, which he had 
paid on a lot, and had seventy-five hens still bringing him an 
income. This, according to the professor, was a proper ex- 
penditure of money, because it enabled the man to earn, and 
only that which was truly earned had any lasting value. 

The work of Professor Carver had reached the ears of 
Thomas A. Edison, deaf to the common sounds which stimu- 
lated the auditory nerves of most mortals, but hearing 
acutely the inaudible sounds of progress in science. He 
wrote from Florida and sent Miller Rees Hutcheson, his 
chief engineer and right-hand man, to talk with the pro- 
fessor. He himself planned to stop at Tuskegec on his way 
North, but an emergency called him back earlier than he 
had expected. However, on the strength of Mr. Hutche- 
son’s report, he made a formal offer for Professor Carver to 
join his laboratory staff. The salary named was in six fig- 
ures, but the professor was asked not to divulge its exact 
amount, so he never did. 


This fabulous sum presented no temptation. His salary 
was enough for his modest purposes, and in computing 
enough” what was the difference between one and one hun- 
dred thousand dollars? He simply stated, “There was noth- 
ing to talk over, and I thanked him in a letter.” 

His reason for declining seemed adequate. He was a soli- 
tary worker and would be out of place in a large organiza- 
tion so foreign to him, no matter how important it might be. 

or the same reason and in the same gentle manner he con- 
tmued to decline all other invitations to move elsewhere. He 

T K u? been brought 

ere by Washmgton, and he could not be faithless, now that 
Washmgton was dead. 


Once he had given out his information on a product, he 



248 George Washington Carver 


usually dropped it ; he must go on, and had no time to bother 
about who was going to receive the credit. Some people lived 
from what others accomplished. One man came with an 
offer from one of the great rubber companies. He himself 
was not a chemist, but he was in a position to command the 
services of research men. And when they were finished with 
a problem, the result was his, while they remained anony- 
mous. 

Professor Carver could not accept the offer. He had no 
desire to receive anything personally, but he did want his 
race to be recognized through him. He had devoted twenty 
years to the Southern colored farmer, and, as he said. If I 
were to go, my work would not be known as mine, and my 
race would get no credit. I want it to have the credit of 
whatever I may do.” 

His eminence in his chosen field of knowledge was first 
recognized abroad when, in November 1916, he was elected 
a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, an honorable scien- 
tific body of Great Britain, founded in 1 754. Professor Carver 
never sought to determine how this had come about, but he 
believed the suggestion could be traced to Sir Harry H. 
Johnston, who had spent considerable time studying the 
^vork of the “Wizard of Tuskegee” while on a visit to 


America some years before. 

This distinguished novelist, naturalist, and expert on 
African affairs paid a signal tribute to George W. Carver 
in his autobiography. The Story of My Life: One of the 
most interesting personages at Tuskegee 
ver a full-blooded Negro, who spoke English as thoug 
he had been brought up at Oxford. He was the Professor of 
Botanv. I had not time to sound his knowledge 
of Africa or Tropical Asia, but no one I ever met in the New 
World taught me so much about the plant distribution in 

North and South America.” w qjrHarrv 

Again in his book. The Negro m the New World Sir 
said^ “He (Professor Carver) is, as regards complexion m 
"LZn absolute Negro; but in the cut of his clothes, the 



"‘Down Came the Heavenly Manna” 


249 

accent of his speech, the soundness of his science, he might be 
the professor of botany not at Tuskegee, but at Oxford or 
at Cambridge. Any European botanist of distinction, after 
ten minutes’ conversation with the man, instinctively would 
deal with him de puissance en puissance.” 



CHAPTER XIX 


Tell Doubting Thoma/^ 


For some years Professor Carver had shown his 
products at country fairs, and a few Washington officials 
were acquainted with certain aspects of his work, but the 
pool of general awareness was still small, and he was un- 
known to businessmen— even to those who were attempting 
to make their fortunes from peanuts. 

In 1919 the acreage devoted to peanuts, first planted com- 
mercially in 1917, had been greatly stepped up; more of 
these little legumes were being consumed than in all the pre- 
ceding years of their history in the United States. Despite 
the increase in peanut growing. Southern industry lagged 
far behind. One spokesman deplored the fact that though 
more than 25 per cent of the home-grown variety came 
from Alabama, the state could not boast a single processing 
plant, whereas New York, where the peanut was not raised 
at all, had the largest plant in the world. 

Southern peanut men recognized that though the domes- 
Uc industry was valued at approximately eighty milUon dol- 
lars, it was as yet only in its infancy; they wanted it to con- 
tinue expanding in a hurry. Toward this end they met in May 
at Atlanta and organized the United Peanut Associations of 


America. , 

One of its first purposes was to build up a greater dem^ 

through advertising. But one member inttUig^dy remarked 
that the public, and themselves also, should first be edu- 
cated; some people thought the peanut grew on bu*^ 
some were afraid of Oriental peanuts becaua they ^ 
bring in bubonic plague,” and almost no one knew anything 



'‘Go Tell Doubting Thomas” 251 

about the properties of the peanut. This bold spirit went on 
to make a suggestion. “There is an old colored man in the 
Tuskegee Institute by the name of Carver. I went down to 
see him and had two hours of the most interesting time in 
his laboratory. This old man has produced from the peanut 
a peanut milk, though he disclaimed at once that he did not 
expect to put the cow out of business.” He proposed they 
should have Carver come to a meeting and describe the 
things he had made. 

“The old man” at this time was about fifty-five but, since 
his hair was gray, to most Southern minds he fitted into the 
“uncle” category. 

Some of the members were horrified at the suggestion. 
What! Have a nigger tell them about their business? But 
others were open-minded enough to be ^villing to take a 
chance, and they proved to be in a majority. After some 
argument it was finally agreed that Carver might show 
them what he had done with the peanut. 

The United Peanut Associations were to meet in Mont- 
gomery in September 1920, to deliberate upon the immedi- 
ate safeguard needed by such an infant industrv. The Re- 
publicans were back in power and about to institute a new 
tariff bill. It looked as though the cradle of Democracy, as 
the Democratic South proudly called itself, were gointj to 
be left out. 

Nearly half of the American-consumed peanuts, or about 
thirty million bushels, ^vere imported from the Far East, 
China grown and Japanese processed. The present duty was 
only three eighths of a cent a pound on unshelled and three 
fourths on shelled. This afforded no protection whatever, 
they said. They feared Southern farmers might have to dis- 
continue raising peanuts if they had to compete ^\■ith Orien- 
tal importations on these terms; they required at least four 
and five cents respectively, a levy which tvould more nearly 
equal the difference in the cost of production in the coun- 
tries which employed coolie labor and the cost of production 
'Ji the United States 



252 George Washington Carver 

It would not be an easy matter to secure this increase of 
duty, because Southern congressmen were likely to hew to 
the party line and reaffirm the traditional policy of the 
Democratic party in favor of a tariff for revenue only. 

The United Peanut Associations foregathered on Monday, 
September 13, at the Exchange Hotel, the same building 
from which the Confederate Congress had sent the telegram 
instructing the batteries to fire on Fort Sumter. Senator 
Oscar W. Underwood and Congressman J. Thomas Heflin 
offered their views, not too encouragingly, to the group of 
shirt-sleeved men who had removed their coats. It was 
almost unbearably hot. 

Tuesday morning early Professor Carver arrived in Mont- 
gomery. He was an expert packer. He could fit an astonish- 
ing amount into a small space, but his twenty-five or thirty 
bottles nevertheless bore considerable weight. Laden with 
his heavy cases, he presented himself at the hotel. 

The doorman interposed his bulk. “What do you want 
here?” 

“I want to see the president of the Peanut Associations.” 

“They’re over at the City Hall.” 

So Professor Carver picked up his burden and trudged 
over to the City Hall in the stifling heat. In response to his 
inquiries he ^v■as sent to one person after another and finally 
was informed that the peanut men had been there but had 
left. He lugged the cases back again to the hotel. The door- 
man would not admit him — no niggers allowed. 

“But they are expecting me !” 

The doorman shook his head. 

“Well, then, will you be kind enough to take a note in? I 

must get in touch with them. 

He wTOte a few lines explaining his non-appearance, and 
a bellhop disappeared with it inside while Professor Carver 
waited outside on the sidewalk. At last he was taken around 
the back way and up the freight elevator to the room where 
the meeting was being held. Although he was tired and per- 
spiring after an hour of tramping and blundering around 



"Go Tell Doubting Thomas^’ 253 

and waiting, no hint of his discomfort appeared in his man- 
ner as he stood before the peanut men to present his gift 
which would bring them prosperity. 

Professor Carver opened his cases and extracted bottle 
after botde, making known its contents as he did so : leather 
stains, from intense black to tan and russet; wood stains — 
peacock green and malachite green among many others; 
Worcestershire sauce. He informed them that a three-and- 
a-half-ounce glass held enough peanuts to make a pint of 
very rich milk, or a quart of “blue john” or skim milk. He 
held up buttermilk; cream made for ice cream, smooth and 
fine; evaporated milk; fruit punch. 

He explained one of the reasons why he liked to hear the 
country folk talk — he could learn much from them. “My 
mother,” one man had told him, “used to make the finest 
coffee out of peanuts.” 

“I asked her about it,” went on Professor Carver, “be- 
cause I had tried and was about to give up. She said take it 
out and let it cool and then roast it again. So I began an in- 
termittent process and found that developed the flavor.” 
Then he showed them peanut coffee, instant coffee, instant 
coffee with cream. 

I thank you for being allowed to contribute in a small 
way,” he fimshed, “and wish you Godspeed.” 

The Peanut Promoter for October 1920 reported that the 
biggest thing at the Montgomery Peanut Convention had 
been the address of Professor Carver. “Coming before the 
convention with doubts lingering in the minds gf the audi- 
ence as to the advisability of having one of the negro race 
come before them, he soon had their minds off of that 
thought and closely following every statement made giving 
the results of his experiments with peanuts. 

After he had concluded they forgot that he was of the 
i^gro race and were loud in their approval. A gentleman in 
the au^ence promptly arose and suggested that the Associa- 
tion offer to Mr. Carver any assistance that he may need 
Uiat can be given by the Association in securing patents for 



254 George W ashington Carver 

his products. This was unanimously adopted, for which Mr. 
Carver thanked the members. Dr. Carver verily won his 
way into the hearts of the peanut men.” 

Recess ^vas declared and all came forward to examine the 
products. When they had resumed their seats, Congressman 
H. B. Steagall spoke. “If I had been here yesterday when 
Senator Undenvood and Tom Heflin were addressing this 
convention I should have felt at home and free to speak 
without embarrassment, but following the speaker who has 
just addressed this meeting I certainly do feel out of place 
and greatly embarrassed, and especially so if I attempted 
to talk about peanuts in a w^ay to instruct anybody. No man 
who has heard this address here today could stand in the face 
of the argument that here is an industr)' not profitable to 
the section of the country directly interested in the growing 
of peanuts and their protection, but here is an industry that 
touches the necessities of life throughout every nook and cor- 
ner of the nation, and certainly if there ever was an infant in- 
dustry that could plead a case before Congress, certainly we 
ought to make out a case perfect before the Ways and 
Means Committee and make out a case of protection for this 
industr>^ When the time comes that this question must be 
thrashed out before the American Congress I propose to see 
that Professor Car\'er is there in order that he may instruct 
them a little about peanuts, as he has done here on this 
occasion.” (Applause) 

The peanut men put on their coats, and the meeting 
ended with a resolution “thanking the Chamber of Com- 
merce for the hospitality extended by the grand and glorious 
city of Montgomery.” 

Professor Carv^er packed up his bottles once more, grasped 
the cases in either hand, and hastened to the station to catch 

his train for home. ^ 

The following January Professor Caiv^er received a tele- 
gram from the Peanut Associations %vhich read, “Want you 
in Washington morning of twentieth dependmg on you to 
show Ways and Means Committee possibilities of the pea- 



‘'Go Tell Doubting Thomas” 255 

nut.” He replied that he would be there, and he was, to at- 
tend the hearings of the General Tariff Revision before the 
Committee of Ways and Means of the House of Represen- 
tatives. 

Most of Saturday, the twenty-second, he sat listening, be- 
coming more and more shocked and more and more horri- 
fied. He had never been in such a place before, but he had 
expected the proceedings of what he had assumed was an 
august body to be carried on with dignity and decorum. In- 
stead, he found the men offering argument were harassed 
and bulldozed and treated as though they were scamps. He 
was extremely embarrassed to hear people talk to one an- 
other like that, virtually calling each other liars. He soon 
realized that they had all submitted briefs two weeks in ad- 
vance, which were now being picked to pieces. No one had 
told him he should have submitted a brief. Almost in con- 
sternation he thought, ‘‘Do I have to go up against that?” 

It was nearly closing time, four o’clock, and the commit- 
tee was listless and tired and bored. The members had been 
listening all day to figures and statistics on walnuts and pe- 
cans. Word was sent over to clear the docket immediately. 
They brightened up a little ; it would soon be finished. 

The Virginia Carolina Co-operative Peanut Exchange 
attested that a protective tariff on peanuts was the only thing 
that would save the sandy land farmers from ruin. 

Then George W. Carver’s name was called. Observing a 
Negro making his way forward, one Congressman remarked, 
I suppose if you have plenty of peanuts and watermelons 
you re perfectly happy?” Professor Carver was accustomed 
to this sort of gibe and ignored it. 

As he reached the platform. Chairman Joseph W. Ford- 
ney warned, “Your time has been cut to ten minutes.” 

, professor knew he could not begin to show his ex- 
hibit in that length of time; it would take almost as long to 
unpack. Nevertheless, he began to open his bag of tricks, 
albng as he did so, employing his old technique of making 
his audience laugh. “I’ve been asked to tell you something 



256 George Washington Carver 

about the extension of the peanut, but we’ll have to hurr)^ if 
we are to extend it, because in ten minutes you will tell me 
to stop.” 

Confused questioning was tossed at him, which consumed 
precious time, and he was cautioned, “Three minutes are 
gone.” He had been worried and had not known quite what 
to do; ugliness always made him nervous. But now a familiar 
imp entered into him and he began to feel devilish. He 
grinned disarmingly. “You took those three minutes, so I 
suppose you’ll give them back to me?” A ripple of laughter 
broke out. 

Smoothly but swiftly he continued to unpack. Out came 
flours, hulls ground and made into meal for burnishing tin- 
plate, and a chocolate-dipped confection. He held up one of 
these, saying, “You don’t know how delicious this is so I will 
taste it for you,” and popped it into his mouth. Wflien the 
laughter had died he launched into his theme ; “The sweet 
potato and the peanut are twin brothers and should not be 
separated. If all other foods were destroyed, these would 
provide a balanced ration for man.” He showed them a 
sweet-potato syrup which could be used as a binder for the 
peanut bar, then he pulled out stock-food hay, bisque for 
ice cream, meal, a diabetic breakfast food. 

The professor was barely started and his time was over, 
but Congressman John N. Garner spoke up, “I think this is 
very interesting. I think his time should be extended.” 

Approval being unanimous. Professor Carver continued. 
Peanut skins, he said, had some of the properties of quinine 
and from them also he had extracted thirty different dyes. 

One member questioned, “Could we get too much pea- 
nuts?” They began to argue among themselves regarding 
the respective merits of oleo and butter and the possibility 
of antagonizing dairymen by the production of too much 

peanut oleo. 

Mr. Gamer broke in by asking, “What do you know about 
the tariff?” 



^‘Go Tell Doubting Thomas” 257 

“Tariff?” replied Professor Carver. “This is all the tariff 
means — to put the other fellow out of business.” 

The committee burst into uproarious merriment, Mr. 
Gamer jumped out of his chair and spun around on his good 
leg, and Mr. Fordney exploded, “Go ahead, brother, your 
time is unlimited.” 

Imperturbably, Professor Carver continued. Some time 
ago he had started to extract milk from the peanut. He held 
up the bottle of milk, on which everyone could see cream 
had risen. 

The argument began again about the advisability of a tax 
which would allow peanuts to compete with dairy products. 
When it had subsided a little Professor Carver lifted another 
bottle. “This,” he said, “is for ice cream.” 

“How does it go in a punch?” called someone. 

“I will show you some punches.” 

Then he pulled out buttermilk and evaporated milk. He 
explained that the peanut made one of the best cereal cof- 
fees and showed one already combined ^vith cream and 
sugar. He held up a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, pointing 
out that the original had been based on soybeans, but the pea- 
nut sauce was just as good. Then came cheese and an oil 
which was a by-product of milk. This, he said, he had just 
made and was looking forward to its future use with a great 
deal of interest. 

Someone asked, “Do you make all these products your- 
self?” 

Yes,” was the answer. “That’s what a research labora- 
tory is for.” 

“Haven’t you done something with sweet potatoes?” 
called someone else. 

“One hundred and seven to date.” 

Mr. Gamer spoke again. “I did not catch that statement. 
Will you repeat it, please?” 

“Yes indeed,” said Professor Carver. “I said one hundred 
and seven, but I have not finished wor kin g on them yet. 



258 George Washington Carver 

The peanut will beat the sweet potato by far. I have barely 
begun on it.” 

He went on pulling rabbits from his inexhaustible hat. 
“Here is the latest thing, a face cream soft and fine as 
almond cream. It is a vanishing cream and will take any 
perfume. And here is one for massaging infants to fatten 
them. It is much more readily absorbed by the skin than 
olive oil.” 

In rapid succession out came a bottle of ink, dehydrated 
milk flakes which could be dissolved in hot water to form 
milk again, a relish, mock oysters, curds which could hardly 
be distinguished from meat. Professor Carver had captured 
his audience so securely that he suggested with a wholly spu- 
rious meekness, 'T have two dozen or so others, such as 
wood dyes and stains, but if my time is up I’d better stop.” 

Nobody paid any attention. Instead, Mr. Gamer reverted 
to his previous statement about sweet potatoes and peanuts. 
“I understood you to say that if all other foods were de- 
stroyed a person could live on sweet potatoes and peanuts?” 

“That is correct, because they contain the necessary vita- 
mins. Together they form a natural food for man and beast. 
There is e\'er)'thing here to strengthen and nourish and keep 
the body alive and healthy.” 

Professor Carver had talked for an hour and three quar- 
ters instead of ten minutes. His listeners were curious to 
know more about this man who could so hold their interest. 

“Mr. Carv^er, what school did you attend?” 

“Iowa State. Secretary of Agriculture Wilson was my in- 
structor for six years.” 

Congressman John F. Carew voiced the opinion of all. 
“You have rendered the committee a great service.” 

Mr. Garner added, “I think he is entitled to the thanks of 
the committee.” One and all rose to their feet and ap- 
plauded, standing. 

Mr. Fordney polished off this most remarkable tribute 
with, “We want to compliment you, sir, on the way you have 
handled your subject.” 



"Go Tell Doubting Thomas” 259 

While the professor was tucking away his bottles and 
jars Congressman Alben W. Barkley asked whether he could 
send them a brief. ‘‘The proceedings are ready for the 
printer now,” he said, ‘‘but we’ll hold them up if you can get 
it here. We’d like to have that.” 

Accordingly, on the train that night the professor wrote 
out a statement beginning, ‘‘These products may be of little 
or no value as far as the paramount issue confronting your 
committee is concerned.” And it ended, ‘‘My appearance 
was not to discuss the tariff. I have nothing to sell; I will 
manufacture nothing. I simply came to add my little bit 
if possible. I feel sure you gentlemen will guard and put 
proper restrictions upon every interest that arises in harm- 
ful competition with ours without any suggestions of 
mine.” 

Though he had not discussed the tariff at all, his exhibit 
had been a far more powerful argument than any number of 
words and figures he or anybody else could have produced. 
As a result, the conunittee wrote into the Fordney-McCum- 
ber Bill the highest tariff rate the peanut industry ever had 
—three and four cents a pound for unshelled and shelled 
peanuts respectively. Undoubtedly he had performed a sig- 
nal service for the South. 

The peanut men, through their trade magazine. The Pea- 
nut World, quite genuinely and sincerely acknowledged that 
indebtedness in the May 1921 issue: ‘‘With profound pleas- 
ure and pride we dedicate an entire page to that incompara- 
ble genius to whose tireless energies and inquisitive mind 
the South and the country owe so much in the development 
of the peanut trades, arts, and industry. His contribution to 
the common fund of human knowledge in the field to which 
he has devoted his life is simply immeasurable. In the men- 
tal laboratory with which he has been so generously en- 
dowed he has been enabled, through the physical labora- 
tory, scientificaUy applied, to be a benefactor not only to his 
own but to all races. He has been virtually a miracle worker, 
and we believe The Peanut World would be remiss in its 



200 George Washington Carver 

duty did it not pay him this tribute, small in comparison to 
what he has done for all of us.” 

Verily Professor Carver had won his way into the hearts of 
the peanut men ; he had struck oil. 

They did not want to lose their grasp upon him, and the 
next fall invited him to show his peanut products at the 
Greater Four County Fair at Suffolk, Virginia. The Suffolk 
Negro Business League presented him with a set of china 
dishes, one large and four small, shaped and painted to look 
like the half shells of peanuts. They could have been used as 
ash receivers, but Professor Carver did not smoke. Tobacco, 
said he, was neither food nor drink; man became a part of 
what he took in, and narcotics did nothing to build up the 
system. Furthermore, if God had intended the nose to be 
used as a chimney He would have turned the nostrils up. 

So his dishes were used to receive dust, but he was grate- 
ful, nevertheless, for the appreciation the gift signified. 

Sporadic recognition of Professor Carver on his home 
ground began slowly to come. A few of the brighter citizens 
of the South a^voke to the fact that cultivating Professor 
Carver, for whom they had an intimate, personal affection, 
would be good business. A former governor, a railroad presi- 
dent, the president of a chain of stores, and a former mayor 
of Tuskegee, organized the Carver Products Company, to 
serve as a holding company for various operating companies 
which would manufacture, among other things, paints and 
stains. They included in the contract a clause stating that 
Professor Carver should receive lo per cent of the net profit. 
The venture set out with big ideas, and they actually started 
to incorporate the Carver Paint Company, but no one indi- 
vidual would put up sufficient money to earn money, and 
none would lea\’e his own business and devote himself ex- 
clusively to that. The Cancer Products Company died before 
it had properly commenced. 

But Mr. Ernest W. Thompson of Tuskegee remained the 
professor’s individual, assiduous companion— though never 
so far as the dining room— producing him here and there 



“Go Tell Doubting Thomas’^ 261 

where his products could be pushed to the fore. To give 
them wider publicity before a wider group than fair goers, 
an exhibit was arranged in March 1923 on the roof garden 
of the Hotel Cecil in Atlanta. The West Point Railroad sent 
a special car to the Institute to transport the professor, his 
boxes, and a few pictures painted with clay colors, and Mr. 
Thompson accompanied him. There for three days at three- 
thirty each afternoon he lectured and demonstrated peanuts, 
sweet potatoes, and clay, to all comers, and they were many. 

One Atlanta paper wrote up an interview in some amaze- 
ment at the spirit of youth which animated him, as though 
he were a young man just starting out in life. He was equally 
amazed at this point of view. He was only sixty-three and of 
course he was eager to get certain things done ! Why should 
he not have vivacity? 

As a matter of fact, laughter eddied about him most of 
the time. When the others teased him or played pranks on 
him, he would go after them swiftly, catch and spank them 
soundly, enjoying this foolishness as much as they. He was 
full of anecdotes and stories — many of them on himself — 
which he told with gusto. He retained his gift for mimicry, 
though he never could quite twist his tongue to the Southern 
dialect. 

A constant source of joking revolved about his habits of 
dressing. They had not improved. Just before he had set out 
for Washington someone had suggested that he buy a new 
necktie. He had promptly retorted, “A new necktie won’t 
help me to answer their questions.” 

He seemed to cling with especial fervor to an old, shabby 
cap. His younger companions at Atlanta hunted all around 
for a silk cap, and finally paid seven dollars for the best the 
city could produce. Then they chucked his old one out the 
window. 

Some sort of function was to be held the last evening, and 
Mr. Thompson went to the professor’s room to see whether 
he were dressed. The professor was looking for his cap. He 
was persuaded as far as the front of the hotel, and there he 



262 


George Washington Carver 

balked. He sat on the running board of the limousine drawn 
up to take him to the party, and refused to budge. He w^as 
positively not going to wear the ne^v hat ! “Fve stood for your 
smoking and drinking, but I will not stand for stealing. I 
\vant my cap ! ' They had to give in and went hunting in the 
alley until they had found the old, disreputable object. And 
not until it Avas safely on his head again w'ould Professor 
Carver enter the car. 

Seven years after Professor Carver had been elected to Fel- 
low'ship in the Royal Society he w'as the recipient of another 
honor. This, too, was more classical, though no more wel- 
come, than the thank-yous of businessmen. On September 4, 
1923, he went to Kansas City to receive from the hands of 
the Attorney General of Kansas the Spingam Medal for dis- 
tinguished research in agricultural chemistr)'. This medal, 
established by the author and publisher, Joel Elias Sping- 
am, in 1914, w^as intended to be a stimulus to the ambition 
of colored youth, but it had the further purpose of focusing 
the attention of ^vhite Americans on the achievements of 
Negroes, and the professor esteemed the award as tending 
to remove bitter racial disparagements. 

Shortly afterward, at the invitation and under the auspices 
of the Y.M.C.A., he made a lecture tour of white colleges in 
North and South Carolina. Though he spoke not a w^ord con- 
cerning race but adhered strictly to that most impersonal of 
subjects, science, its primary aim was interracial good w^ill. 

No colored person had ever stood on those platforms be- 
fore. Since this was an experiment that had never been 
attempted in the South, the Y.M.C.A. secretarv^ who accom- 
panied Professor Carv^er part of the distance asked the 
heads of the various colleges to ^vrite him personally what 
they believ ed the response had been. 

The replies, 'vshich ^vere not intended for the professors 
eyes, varied according to the traditions of the different schools. 
One president wTote: “His humor, his profoundly religious 
spirit, his humanitarian impulses, and his wonderful discov- 
eries and kno^vledge fascinated our students. He will create 



''Go Tell Doubting Thomas'^ 263 

in our white people a deeper respect for the possibilities of 
the colored race wherever he goes.” And another: “To see a 
man as black as Dr. Carver and yet as able as he is, comes as 
a distinct shock to Southern boys and jars them out of their 
conviction of the Negroes’ absolute inferiority.” 

But by no means all were thus jarred. At one school the 
faculty were afraid to attend and, in another, many of the 
students cut chapel rather than listen to him. The head of 
the latter offered the criticism that Carver took too long to 
get to his subject. The reason should have been obvious. 
Professor Carver could practically feel the icicles dripping 
from the hall, and it took him some little time to warm his 
audience up to the point of losing their antagonism. Presently 
the ice began to melt under his spell, and he had a very 
pleasant reception afterward. 

For two weeks he maintained his barnstorming trip, riding 
by day in dirty Jim Crow cars and speaking every evening. 
Once he was so tired he fell asleep by an open window and 
when he reached Spartanburg he had a sore throat. As his 
lecture ended his voice did also. From then on he had a very 
ti^g time, having his throat treated at each new town by a 
different doctor in the daytune so he could be heard at night. 

He kept going, wading through the lecture periods as best he 
could. 

The constriction of his vocal cords was due in part to 
nervousness; it was not easy thus to wear himself down 
before audiences which were practically always hostile at the 
outset, and a tremendous exertion was required to maintain 
the light touch which would win each one over. He had 
broadened the sympathies of some, but he had to leave again 
with many still unwon. 

His only cor^ent on the tour was typical in its disregard 
of personal trials and immediate disappointments and its 
emphasis on the long view, which would surely bring about 
a chmge for the better: “The most gratifying thing I have 
oun m my years of work is the ever-increasing demand of 
the youth of the country for knowledge. The crying out for 



204 George Washington Carver 

education is the greatest assurance of the strong foundation 
now being laid for our America of the future.” 

Professor Carver returned to Tuskegee with his throat 
closed and a recurrence of the laryngitis to which he had 
always been subject. Johns Hopkins Hospital could offer 
little encouragement in the way of a cure. Nobody knew 
what to do for it, and it persisted way into the summer. 

One Sunday morning he heard a visiting missionary, who 
himself had come home to die of tuberculosis, describe the 
conversion of a little girl just before her untimely death 
from pulmonary disease and malnutrition. The sad little 
story touched Professor Carver deeply, as another evidence 
of a wasted life. Perhaps the peanut could have prevented 
this waste. He did not hear the rest of the sermon ; instead, 
the question, “Can’t you do something?” kept repeating it- 
self in his mind. He did not usually perform any work on 
Sunday, but this time he went straight to his laboratory and 
started an experiment. In a very short time he had a pos- 
sible remedy. 

Creosote, a powerful antiseptic, had long been accepted as 
an integral part of the treatment of pulmonary cases, but 
when emulsified with cod-liver oil it was so abominable to 
the taste that many patients could not swallow it. Professor 
Carver blended beechwood creosote with peanut juices in 
a stable emulsion. This was actually pleasant to take and 
combined the properties of an excellent medicine with a 
nourishing food which would assist the process of cure. He 
treated himself with the preparation, and it succeeded in 
curing the hacking cough from which he had suffered for six 
months. 

The Women’s Board of Domestic Missions of the Re- 
formed Church in America was to hold its forty-second anni- 
versary meeting in New York November 19? ^9^45 
Marble Collegiate Church on Fifth Avenue. The professor, 
who might be considered an unofficial missionary in the 
South, was asked to be one of the speakers. 

Before this audience of some five hundred, three or four 



"Go Tell Doubting Thomas^' 


265 

individuals talked on mission work among Indians and 
Southern poor whites, and then Professor Carver rose. At his 
appearance, a titter rippled through the church, but shame 
immediately silenced it. 

He was to address a religious body and had prepared his 
thoughts accordingly. This mission, like his own, was to give 
aid to human beings in need, according to Christ’s precepts. 
To these people he could speak freely what was in his heart, 
and for the first time publicly reveal his spiritual conception 
of his own work. 

He came to his lectures straight from his laboratory and, 
consequently, the latest discovery in which he had there been 
absorbed usually still held his conscious attention. So he told 
of the conversion and death of the child who, he felt, had 
died needlessly when on every hand was growing the peanut, 
the magic plant that might have saved her life, and described 
its efficacy in clearing up his o\\ti cough. 

The audience that first had laughed was absorbed by his 
earnestness as he spoke of God’s bounty and man’s indiffer- 
ence to the great gifts; man had not touched the fringe of 
earth s possibilities. "Thou madest him to have dominion 
over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under 
his feet. What had been done with the peanut and s\veet 
potato could be done with everything else, because God had 
said that every herb and plant could be made of use to man. 
“God is going to reveal things to us that He never re\^ealcd 
before if we put our hand in His,” he said. “No books ever go 
into my laboratory. The thing that I am to do and the way 
of doing it come to me. I never have to grope for methods ; 
the method is revealed at the moment I am inspired to 
create something new. Without God to draw aside the cur- 
tam I would be helpless.” 

^ After a brief silence, forgetting the nature of the building 

m which they \vere seated, the audience burst spontaneously 
into applause. 

The Baltimore Sun next morning considered the event 
sufficiently noteworthy to merit an editorial and said it was 



266 


George Washington Carver 

refreshing to find a chemist who did not feel it necessary to 
bar God out of the workshop. And it was pleasant to find him 
devoting himself not to the devil’s work of producing de- 
structive combinations, but to new means of meeting human 
needs. 

However, inimical and contemptuous forces were, as usual, 
in action. The New York Times also elevated the news item 
to the rank of an editorial. But this editorial writer, who had 
not been present, had placed a different interpretation on 
secondhand information : “It is for chemists to determine to 
what extent he [Dr, Carver] is worthy of recognition. He 
seems to have done useful work. And therefore it can be 
claimed that he has shown abilities of a sort not present in 
many of his race. It is therefore to be regretted that he should 
use language that reveals a complete lack of the scientific 
spirit. Real chemists do not scorn books and they do not 
ascribe their successes, when they have any, to ‘inspiration.’ 
Talk of that sort will simply bring ridicule on an admirable 
institution and on the race. All who hear it will be inclined to 
doubt, perhaps unjustly, that Dr. Carver’s chemistry is ap- 
preciably different from the astronomy of the once-famous 
Reverend John Jasper who so firmly maintained that the sun 
went around a flat earth.” 

Professor Carver was bewildered and hurt by the misin- 
terpretation. He had not said that inspiration took the place 
of books. What he planned to do was not in books, so why 
take them along? Creative chemistry was so named because 
no one had created the same thing before. But the creative 
chemist had to be thoroughly well grounded, having all the 
science he had learned from books and experience in the 
forefront of his mind and in his fingers before he could see 
the possibilities. Then he could take what he had pulled to 
pieces and put it together again in the new way desired. The 
result depended on the individual chemist s ingenuity an 
patience— and the help of God. This was not conceit, quite 

the contrary. _ 

The professor had no intention of answermg the 1 tmes, 



“Go Tell Doubting Thomas” 


267 

he had no wish to engage in argument. But Mr. Thompson 
insisted that the matter was too important to let pass; he 
must take the opportunity to set the paper right. Under this 
urging he wrote a letter: 

I regret that such a gross misunderstanding should arise as to what 
was meant by Divine inspiration. Inspiration is not at variance with 
information; in fact, the more information one has the greater will 
be the inspiration. In evolving new creations I am wondering of 
what value a book would be to the creator if he is not a master of 
analytical work, both qualitative and quantitative. 

He had seen taros and yautias in the market, and had seen 
also many possibilities in developing them. 

I know of no one who has ever worked with these roots in this 
way. I know of no book from which I can get this information, yet 
I will have no trouble in doing it. Proverbs 3-6 : “In all thy ways 
acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” Intelligent people 
now believe in a God. I am not alone in this. May God deepen and 
strengthen our religion as a race rather than destroy it. 

The Times, which was unable to prove the non-existence 
of God, did not print the letter, but the press services picked 
up the story of Professor Carver’s talk and carried it the 
length and breadth of the land, into the foreign-language 
papers, and as far as the Alanchestet Guardian in England 
and the Colombo Daily M ews in Ceylon. It appeared under 
such headlines as Chemist Attributes Success to Divinity, 
Gives Credit to God, Negro Professor Aided by Heaven, 
Inspired by Providence, Colored Savant Credits Heaven^ 
Credit to Divine Revelations, God His Book of Knowledge, 
Ged Reveals Secrets, Divine Guidance, Credits Divine End' 
Divme Inspiration, Divine Aid, Divine Impulsion, and so 
on, and so on, and so on. 

With the too common impetuosity of the press, some re- 
porters included in their stories the statement that Professor 
Carver was on the trail of a “cure” for tuberculosis. This he 
f^omptly, categoricaUy, and publicly denied, but it received 
the customary fate of denials— it was ignored. 



268 George Washington Carver 

Professor Car\’er left the controversy as to whether scien- 
tists were commonly atheistic or agnostic to the newspapers ; 
they could continue arguing the so-called conflict between 
the scientist and religionist which existed, some believed, not 
so much in the minds of either, but in the minds of the 
stand-bys who wanted to see a fight. As a matter of fact, the 
individual astronomer, chemist, or botanist might doubt 
dogmas and avoid churches, but a fair share could be found 
who agreed with. Einstein that no legitimate conflict could 
exist; Einstein stated his view precisely, that “Science with- 
out religion is lame, and religion without science is blind.” 

The professor went serenely back to his labor at Tuskegee 
the day after the lecture. He had a little allegory which 
applied to skeptics and finished them off neatly; “Here is a 
thirty-candle-power light bulb, and I place beneath it a 
burning candle. In order for the light of the candle to be 
noticed it will be necessary for the hght bulb to be put out or 
for the candle to be increased thirty times. It will be much 
easier to put out the bulb than it will be to build up the 
candle. The same is true of some people. When one out- 
shines the others, they do aU they can to discredit his work. 
The candle is the litde bit of folk — too narrow and with no 
concept.” 

Whether newspaper readers agreed or disagreed with Pro- 
fessor Carver’s religious beliefs, his name had spread far 
beyond the circle of those who knew him merely as a friend 
of the farmer. But this sort of fame did not abate in the 
slightest his continued services to the South. 

Early in 1925 a sort of super-fair, the Southern States 
Exposition, was held in Grand Central Palace in New York, 
its purpose being to present the potentialities of the South to 
Northern capital. No such fair would be complete without 
Professor Carver, and he was invited to show his wares. His 
exhibit in a modest nook of the bu il d in g attracted wide 
attention. 

When reporters thronged about him, he stood in a comer 
with his hands folded, his bright eyes searching the faces 



“Go Tell Doubting Thomas’’ 269 

before him. “Are any of you from the Times?” he asked 
suspiciously. He had grown wary of press misinterpretation, 
and he did not wish to be classed among those who, for the 
sake of fame or money, rushed into print with the first ideas 
that came into their heads. 

Though he was wont to say that Science was Truth, he 
recognized also that man’s part in it was merely a groping 
toward that Truth. Anyone was at liberty to make a supposi- 
tion. If he were sure of his facts he would say “yes” or “no,” 
but if he were not sure he would say, “probably so,” “I hope 
so,” or “investigations to date have proved so and so.” He 
might have been working on something for months, maybe 
years, but not until he was thoroughly satisfied would he give 
out the information. Then they could fire into it as much as 
they pleased. He was exceedingly careful not to make a direct 
statement — even though it might seem correct at the moment 
—from which there could be no appeal and which could be 
upset by the light of further knowledge the next day or the 
next year. This should be true of all scientific advance, but 
was particularly necessary in his case. 

His discoveries, with the exception of his mycological 
work, did not properly belong in scientific journals. They 
were not revolutionary in themselves. Anyone with the 
proper education could milk the peanut or abstract paper 
from suitable fibers, or rubber from the sweet potato or any 
other vine which secreted latex. His special contribution was 
to expose these hidden properties in plants to the public view 
and, by dramatizing them, serve as a signpost pointing the 
way for those who had the facilities to incorporate them into 
the contemporary pattern of living. All this he would do, 
but he did not by any means wish himself to be dramatized 
at the expense of his integrity. 

At the Southern States Exposition The Manufacturers’ 
Record offered a prize of five thousand dollars to the state 
Rowing the greatest manufacturing possibilities and, with 
Professor Carver on hand, of course it went to Alabama. 

What happened to that five thousand dollars? The profes- 



270 George Washington Carver 

sor %vTote to the Alabama chairman, but no answer was 
forthcoming. Nobody seemed to know where it went or what 
had happened to it. Presumably it was turned over to some^ 
body ^\•ho did not know any more about what to do with it 
than was already being done and used it as any other little 
donation would be. He drew a moral from this incident. So 
many people in the South claimed, “All we need is money.” 
But if each one had ten thousand dollars he would not be a 
bit different. IMoney was not ^vhat \vas needed. Suppose 
large sums \\'ere just turned over to the South? What would 
they be spent for? You can spend wealth, said Professor 
Car\ er ; you can get rid of it, but not usefully unless you have 
planned how it can make you grow. What the South actually 
lacked \vas manufacturing wisdom. 



CHAPTER XX 


^^Let Us Break Bread Together^^ 


The spiritual wounds of a Negro are as infinite 
in number as the sparrows that fall, and are no more to be 
counted. Over and over, on trains or in restaurants. Professor 
Carver would see a white person advancing upon him with 
a determined air and think, with dread, “Oh dear ! Here it 
comes!” To his retiring nature the conspicuousness which 
arose from his being a Negro was painful in the extreme. His 
personal welfare was the least of his concerns, but he did 
shrink from the embarrassment of being publicly singled out 
for insult. It shocked him each time he encountered it, no 
matter how thoroughly he had braced himself to meet it. 

None of this, however, stopped him from going where he 
felt he must goj if he had something to do, he^ent ahead 
and did it. Prodigious feats of lecturing and traveling were 
performed by Professor Carver during the ’20s. 

Such simple questions as where one is to eat or sleep, 
which present themselves to most travelers, were knotty 
subjects to him in the Southern states where a Negro’s right 
to comforts and conveniences was not recognized. If he were 
th^ty he could not drink from a public fountain, but must 
climb down the stairs to the basement to a fountain plainly 
marked For Colored”; and if a meeting were being held on 

an upper story he must climb up the stairs or go round to the 
freight elevator. 

Th^e was always the problem of where he was to spend 
e night. Local laws often prohibited him from sleeping 
under the same roof with a white man. The larger cities had 
colored Y.M.C.A.S, but in the smaUer towns he had some- 



272 George Washington Carver 

times to tramp for hours to find a place in which to stop. 
He was truly tired by that time, and, the accommodations 
being decidedly inferior, he could not always rest well even 
then. 

Professor Carv^er’s trips were usually a curious mixture. 
While he was in transit to or from the place of meeting he 
experienced extreme discomfort, both physical and mental; 
with a strange irony he could never escape, he might have to 
sit, desperately sick and longing for a place to rest, even in 
the big public lobby of a hotel while the management was 
deciding he could not be admitted. But the very next day, 
while he was on the platform, he would receive the greatest 
acclaim. No matter how carefully the numbers of his hearers 
had been estimated in advance, the hall chosen was seldom 
large enough; often there were more outside than in. 
Charmed with his dry humor and whimsicalities, audiences 
listened and marveled, though he observed no one rushing to 
meet the challenge of producing a better South. 

Though Professor Carver had to catch innumerable trains, 
it was his proud boast that he had never missed one. Of 
course, if someone else were making the arrangements or 
engineering the departure, he might have to hustle getting 
there, but with such assistants or in spite of them, he had 
never been left at the train. 

He was unsurpassed in the art of packing. He carried no 
brief case, but wrapped his papers and documents compactly 
and neatly into a bundle, tied with a string, and he could fit 
more into that bundle than anybody before or since his time. 
He had never had anyone to look out for him — ^mother, wife, 
or sister— so he had learned to look out for himself. Once 
when he was making ready to go to Washington he omitted 
his eyeglasses. Since he used them only for reading, they 
were not a constant necessity. But he was chagrined at the 
oversight and remarked to one of his friends that he guessed 
he ought to ha\ e married. Of one idiosyncrasy he was never 
able to rid himself: nine times out of ten when he went 
anv\Nhcrc he left his nightshirt behind him. He would write 



Us Break Bread Together” 273 

to the hotel and say he was sorry, but always he had a guilty 
feeling that he had no business to be so forgetful. 

Over the years this advocate of God in Science continued 
to appear before Southern schools with varying degrees of 
success, depending on the amount of prejudice already exist- 
ing, never certain beforehand what sort of reception he 
might encounter. After he had spoken at the Blue Ridge 
Assembly the students were lined up beside the bus which 
was to take him to the station. He passed between them 
saying good-by, but many of these young men who were 
studying for the ministry drew back ; they would not perform 
the Western rite of brotherhood by shaking hands. 

Again under the auspices of the Y.M.C.A., he toured some 
dozen colleges in Mississippi, a state distinguished for the 
highest degree of prejudice and the lowest degree of literacy 
in the country. Signs were frequent: “Nigger don’t let the 
sun set on you in this town,” and he was warned that he ran 
the risk of being mobbed. 

In most places the students listened attentively and re- 
spectfully to his discourses on the peanut and the sweet 
potato, “The lifesavers of the South,” including the Univer- 
sity at Oxford, where Senator Theodore G. Bilbo published a 
little paper. And in it the senator said he did not know what 
the proud University of Mississippi was coming to. It had had 
that peanut nigger from Tuskegee making an address. He 
could not understand what a nigger would have to say that 
ivould interest white Southern boys, much less white girls. 

But white girls elsewhere spoke their own minds on the 
subject. Professor Carver’s appearance before the Woman’s 
College was canceled at the last moment, and the president 
forbade students to attend the hastily organized meeting in 
the colored high school. In a school paper they apologized 
for the discourtesy to which they had been forced and regis- 
tered an objection, very heartening in its determination: 

As the events of the past week have shown, we were a bit hasty 
in last week’s editorial “Another Step Forward” in predicting that 
the South’s outlook was broadening, that race prejudice was a thing 



274 George Washington Carver 

of the past. We wish that such a condition did exist — it should exist, 
but the protest raised against Dr. Carver shows that it is still a state 
to be attained in the future. So far the South has only a superficial, 
a very superficial, coating of tolerance. A casual observer would 
think that enlightenment had come. We thought so too. . . . 
Some of us are inclined to tuck our heads with shame and deplore 
the fact that we dwell in a state so backward in certain respects as 
Mississippi. . . . But instead of sitting down and blushing we 
should be up and doing something about it. 

Professor Carver’s Mississippi tour was proclaimed “the 
greatest accomplishment for interracial good will so far 
achieved in the South,” and when he went on to Panama 
City, Florida, the Southeastern Peanut Association meeting 
there adopted a resolution: “Our South has proven to be 
your South.” 

This sentiment, however, was shared by very few other 
businessmen, and on the whole Professor Carver felt the 
South was missing much by its inferiority complex. Years 
before, when he had been exhibiting at a fair, a state gover- 
nor kept coming up to his stand and asking oblique questions. 
The governor was going to make a speech that afternoon 
proclaiming the potentialities of the great Southland, but he 
would not ask directly for what he wanted, because he would 
then be crediting a Negro with knowing more than he did; 
that he was unable to do. He was typical of so many of his 
compatriots; they would go without rather than acknowl- 
edge they were beholden to a Negro. 

Professor Carver’s mail was piled with requests for infor- 
mation, but by letter was not the most satisfactory way to 
obtain it, when the source was immediately at hand. As 
elsewhere over the country, businessmen’s clubs were usually 
luncheon clubs meeting in hotels, and those were the times 
and places they heard new speakers and exposed themselves 
to new ideas. Professor Carver could not enter their hotels 
nor sit do^^nl to table with them. They could have learned 
much from him, but custom erected a barrier between them- 
selves and this knowledge. 



‘‘Let Us Break Bread Together” 275 

Often they asked to borrow his exhibit, but this he never 
would allow. He had two good reasons, either of which 
would have served. He would not have his exhibit handled 
by anyone other than himself — he packed it himself, un- 
packed and set it up, and then repacked; no other hands 
could touch it. Always present was the danger that someone 
would take it to pieces, help himself to what he wanted, and 
perhaps misuse what he had stolen. And he had a second 
reason; he did not ask that they recognize himself, but did 
insist that Tuskegee be recognized. 

Professor Carver’s information was for the legitimate use 
of anyone who asked for it legitimately. But he would not go 
round by the back door to offer it to anyone not honest 
enough to get it fairly and squarely. He was reminded of the 
most important lesson he had learned in geometry at Ames : 
you can’t arrive at a right result from a wrong hypothesis. 
If the information were not honorably come by it would, in 
the long run, do the recipient no good. 

If people desired his exhibit desperately enough they were 
obliged to give in and invite him. This accounted for his 
appearance in many places where no other Negro had ever 
been before. 

It was not necessary to journey abroad to be subject to 
the pain and terror of having been bom not white. Tuskegee 
had become the center from which stemmed many Negro 
activities designed to fill the gaps in the social structure. 
Partly due to the unhealthful conditions under which they 
were forced to live, the life expectancy of colored people was 
lower by several years than that of white. Though their 
population increase had not kept pace with that of the rest 
of the country, they still numbered nearly a tenth of the total. 
Because this “tenth man,” too, became ill, and few white 
nurses were willing to attend him, Booker Washington had 
very early started a three-year course of nursing for girls. 
Since then it had seldom been able to meet the demand. The 
Institute had not considered itself qualified to have a medical 
school, but had from the outset maintained a hospital. 



27^ George Washington Carver 

In 1913 Mrs. Charles E. Mason, whose husband was one 
of the faithful trustees, had presented the John A. Andrew 
Memorial Hospital in honor of her grandfather, a governor 
of Alassachusetts. This hospital had served a large section of 
the South which lacked facilities for treating Negroes. 

Then when a hospital for Negro veterans, who could not 
be admitted into white institutions, was projected shortly 
after the war, Tuskegee was its logical location. In exchange 
for one dollar the school presented the Federal Government 
with 400 acres of land, and Vice-President Coolidge came 
down to dedicate the buildings. 

Charles W. Wickersham, a trustee of many years, was in 
charge of the proceedings. Mr. Coolidge would say, “Good 
night” and “Good morning” and “Pass the salt,” but for the 
rest he let Mr. Wickersham do all the talking. Mr. Wicker- 
sham was fairly stumped by the lack of enthusiasm and gen- 
eral flatness of the atmosphere. He went out into the kitchen 
of the guest hall to see whether he could stir up any anima- 
tion through that channel. 

“You know,” he remarked to the cook, “I can’t get the 
Vice-President to talk.” 

“Well, Mr. Wickersham, there’s two things: I got quail, 
fixed up the Southern way. And if that don’t work, wait till 
he sees Professor Carver.” 

Sure enough, when Mr. Coolidge saw Professor Carver, 
he asked question after question and fairly talked up a 
breeze. 

But when he had gone away, a truly ominous storm of 
major proportions gathered at Tuskegee. The great Federal 
hospital and its ample pay roll were plums too ripe to be left 
unharvested by Southern politicians. They were determined 
it should be staffed by white doctors, and advanced the argu- 
ment that Negro doctors, who were not very numerous any- 
how, had no experience in treating psychopaths. This was 
largely true, because Negro physicians could not intern save 
at very few hospitals of the country. However, they were 
intelligent and they could read medical literature, and this 



^‘Let Us Break Bread Together” 277 

was one place where they felt they were entitled to receive 
coveted and necessary experience. 

They were determined, and the Imperial Wizard of the 
Ku Klux Klan was full of anger; he issued orders from 
Atlanta. 

The night the Klan rode two hundred Negro soldiers were 
stationed on the campus, home from the war they had helped 
win for democracy, which now seemed a somewhat hollow 
victory; they were waiting, not too hopefully, for rehabilita- 
tion. More men stole in from the hills. The shadowy parade 
ground was filled with shadowy forms. A menacing silence 
held the campus as the parade of automobiles, shrouded 
white figures on the running boards, came down the road. 
Through the slits in their government-owned sheets the 
Klansmen were aware of the dim, immobile figures, shoulder 
to shoulder in the dark, ready to defend Tuskegee. The cars 
swept through the campus, out to the highway, and ignomin- 
iously returned whence they had come. 

So the Klan rode and vanished. And the Veterans’ Hos- 
pital, designed for Negro patients, was staffed throughout by 
Negro physicians and nurses. 

Though the discussion of such events was discouraged 
among the students, the riding of the Klan is among the folk 
tales of Tuskegee. One of the pioneers was telling the story 
to a newly inducted member of the faculty. “You young 
people,” he said, “are eating white bread now.” 

But it is still bitter bread,” replied the young man. 

Bitter bread it would remain until the racial attitudes 
changed. These were roughly two. The first was fear on the 
part of white people whose economic status was low enough 
to be threatened by any rising economic scale among 
Negroes. This fear expressed itself actively in bullying. On 
plantations within twenty-five miles of Tuskegee the riding 
boss, the m^ on the big horse,” regularly whipped so-called 
tenants precisely as the overseer of seventy years before had 
whipped slaves— because it was good for them. And, as they 
also had done seventy years before, landowners and orofes- 



278 George Washington Carver 

sional men who were not economically threatened regarded 
Negroes with condescending amusement and affection. Those 
they had grown up with and who had tended them were 
“dear old uncle” or “dear old auntie.” 

A contentedly secure middle class which would automati- 
cally maintain a balance between the social extremes was 
lacldng, and hence the system remained feudalistic — that of 
master and serf. In the main this stayed virtually unaltered 
through the long lapse of years, with the vital exception that 
the landlord no longer had any obligation to care for 
Negroes coming under his jurisdiction. 

To keep alive such a system it was necessary that its 
adherents recognize no variations within the Negro race. A 
shopkeeper of the town who had a bare elementary educa 
tion would say of Tuskegee’s digmfied Ph.D.s, The Institute 
‘Nigras’ know their place and w^e never have any trouble 
with them”— the word being a polite compromise between 
nigger and Negro conceded to Northerners who had been 

known to object to the former. 

Some were uncomfortable about the situation. One man 
would not come to the Institute at all, but transacted his 
business at a distance. “When we visit you,” he said, “you do 
everything possible to make us comfortable and extend every 
courtesy to make us welcome. We cannot return these cour- 
tesies ; therefore I will not accept them. ^ ^ 

It was easy to say, “Why doesn’t someone break the vicious 
circle by inviting Negroes whom he knows to be his equal m 
education and culture to his home?” But custom had the 
sanction of many years’ usage. It could not lightly be upset. 
No one, not even a minister, dared to make the first breach. 
If a “foreigner” who came from the North to settle among 
them attempted to treat the Negro on anything like an equa 
footing, he himself became outcast. A teacher at a neig 0 • 
ing school took that stand and very soon his services we 
no longer required,” and he had to move elsewhere. 

Many white visitors to Professor Carver’s 
they saw brain and hands, joint tools working m harmony 



"Let Us Break Bread Together"' 279 

together, said that he was a genius, a law unto himself. Since 
he had been acclaimed elsewhere as a great man, they were 
safe in acknowledging what they had instinctively felt. To 
explain their bemusement, they averred he had not a single 
characteristic of the Negro, not one — as though all Negroes 
could be lumped together. This was nonsense, and Professor 
Carver dismissed it as such. Of course he was a Negro, ac- 
cording to the best obtainable evidence a full-blooded Negro, 
and his emotions were those of a Negro. 

Students of such matters attempted to trace his physical 
characteristics, which differed considerably from the more 
usual West Coast Africans, to a particular tribe or tribes and 
arrived at various hypotheses, but nothing authentic could 
be definitely established. They did agree, however, that no 
white blood appeared to have altered the strain. 

Not all Southerners by any means subscribed to the same 
point of view regarding Negroes. Each being an individual, 
each had his individual reactions, depending on the influ- 
ences to which he had been exposed, but far too many shared 
the more or less common attitudes. 

Gardeners had no ax to grind, and botanists and mycolo- 
gists with scientific impersonality acknowledged an expert 
when they encountered him. They would agree with Pro- 
fessor Car\^er himself when he said, “If you have nothing but 
complexion to recommend you, you have no recommenda- 
tion. If you know anything, you recommend yourself.” 

Just after he returned from his appearance before the 
Ways and Means Committee in Washington he attended 
a farmers’ convention. A w'hite man said to one of the offi- 
cials, “I understand that man Carver that’s created such a 
stir — understand he’s coming.” 

“Yes, he’ll be here. If he savs he’s coming, he doesn’t fail.” 

“Well, I want to know is he a black man? All your big 
men are two thirds white, and I can understand where their 
inteUigcnce comes from.” 

“You come and you’ll be satisfied with his complexion.” 

The man sat right behind Professor Carver on the plat- 



28o George Washington Carver 

form. At first he was not going to listen. But then he straight- 
ened up and finally rose and peered at the exhibit with the 
rest. His mouth fell open, and nobody knows when he closed 
it. His final comment was, “Is Carver educated or is he a 
freak?” 

Perhaps he was both. 

So many people came to Tuskegee and exclaimed with 
avid curiosity, “I want to see Carv’er, I never saw him, I 
want to see Carver !” They wanted to know, “Is he bright or 
dark?” He was used to loud asides from those who seemed 
to assume he was an inanimate object lacking a sense of hear- 
ing. “My God, is that him? You can see there’s something un- 
natural about him.” It made no difference to them whether 
he were suffering agony of mind or in a mood to be amused. 

As he grew older it was chiefly the interference with his 
train of thought that exasperated him, but the irritation 
made him more conscious of the implications of their intru- 
sion. He had to protect himself and safeguard his patience 
and time by declining the honor of being put on view. 

Professor Carver’s becoming a recluse was occasioned in 
part by the unhappiness he had suffered. If you encounter a 
sleeping lion, you do not kick it awake, particularly if you 
have nothing with which to defend yourself. Because of the 
nature of the task he had set himself, he was unable to stay 
off the trail used by the lion, but when he was not actually 
obliged to venture forth and travel that precarious path, he 
could shut himself away from the howhng jackals. He did 
not dislike people, as such, but when they had nothing in 
common, why bother? He had much better put in his time 
doing things to help them if they would but take advantage 
of it, making his contribution to those big enough and broad 
enough to accept it without qualification. 

He could not learn to like a person; he liked him immedi- 
ately or not at all. Certain words could not be described- 
love, hate, joy, sorrow— they were just words, and their 
meaning was understood only by each individual who ex- 
perienced them. His aversion to certain people was equaUy 



^"Let Us Break Bread Together’’ 


281 


indefinable. But if he encountered one whose nature seemed 
evil, he thought to himself, “Beware of him. He’s doomed.” 
And instinctively he turned his head away in order not to see 
what was there. 

He knew their secret thought, “Here’s a peanut-headed 
nigger speaking,” and occasionally he wished they knew that 
he knew; they could not throw water in his face and make 
him believe it was raining. But no mere words would alter 
their opinions, so better just let them go their way. He re- 
mained unimpressed by the fulsome chorus of admiration 
and the often-repeated exclamation, “How happy you must 
be to do all this for other people !” His reply, if he had made 
any, would have been, “Have you yourself taken the time to 
kick even one stumbling block out of my way to make my 
path a little easier?” 

But he did not speak. 

As a Negro, Professor Carver was cut off from so many 
experiences which would have enriched his life; he missed so 
many things that he considered beautiful and important. Once 
when he was in Montgomery, having a little time to spare, 
he ventured into a park, first looking to make sure there was 
no sign saying he could not enter. He was contentedly exam- 
ining the grottoes and the flowers when the park keeper 
strode forward. “What are you doing here? Don’t you know 
niggers ain’t allowed? Get out !” 

When Paderewski came to Montgomery, he could not 
hear the master play, because Negroes were not permitted in 
the theater. And when the Kress collection of Italian paint- 
ings and sculpture was on view there, he was barred from 
seeing them, though he longed to do so. He might, perhaps, 
have been permitted to enter the gallery, but he would have 
been stared at and commented upon beyond endurance. He 
could not enjoy beauty in the midst of ugliness. 

He felt the same thing when the pipe organ was dedicated 
in the Methodist Church in the town of Tuskegee. The 

organist came out to the Institute to invite him to come and 
hear her play. 



282 George Washington Carver 

“Thank you/’ he replied, “but I think I’d better not.” 

Two times she returned with the same request; she had 
asked the minister and he said it was all right, and then the 
leaders of the congregation had also agreed. Nobody was 
going to make a fuss about it. 

He repeated his answer. “I appreciate your asking and 
thank you again. But if your playing is to be in tune, nothing 
untoward must enter in and mar its grace. If I were to step 
inside your church, there would certainly be some individuals 
who would make me feel not welcome. By the time the 
hustling and bustling and looking around at me and wonder- 
ing, ‘What’s he doing here?’ were over, and a suitably re- 
moved place had been found for me to sit, / would not be in 
tune. The best thing within me could not respond. So I think 
I had best stay at home,” 

Seldom did he indicate what was in his heart and mind on 
this subject; when white people came to the Institute chapel 
they were made particularly welcome, but no colored person 
could worship God in a white church. Once, however, when 
a group of ministers asked him what they could do to better 
race relations, he did deliver a short sermon, stating solemnly 
and frankly, “Your actions speak so loud I cannot hear what 
you are saying. You have too much religion and not enough 
Christianity — too many creeds and not enough performance. 
This world is perishing for kindness.” 

Professor Carver had in abundant measure and as a 
natural gift the kindliness toward other human beings of 
which he spoke. Once he was waiting for his train at Chehaw 
and sa\v a man firing an engine, trying to shovel coal and 
clumsy about it because he was crippled. His ever-ready 
sympathy was touched. “May I help you?” he asked. 

The man looked up and saw it was a Negro making the 
offer. “No !” he snarled. 

Professor Carver merely said, “Excuse me,” and did not 
trouble the man any more. This was his habitual reaction to 
such incidents. When people bothered him, he only said, 
“Never mind, they don’t understand. It doesn t make any 



**Let Us Break Bread Together^’ 283 

difference.” And when a storekeeper said roughly, “What 
d’ya want, Uncle?” he silently turned and left the place, 
maintaining his tight-lipped, formal manners. 

On this same trip Professor Carver encountered forcible 
demonstrations of the two prevailing attitudes of the two 
prevailing classes. He was on his way to the World’s Peanut 
Exposition being held at Windsor, North Carolina, and Mr. 
Thompson accompanied him. Some forty miles from their 
destination they had to transfer. The bus they were prepar- 
ing to mount had no room for colored. Professor Carver 
would have been stranded had not Mr. Thompson’s author- 
ity made a place for him. 

During the exposition itself two young fellows, both very 
drunk, approached the glass cases in which Professor Carver’s 
exhibit was sheltered. “Come on. Bill!” exclaimed one. 
“Want to see the smartest nigger in the world? Don’t be 
ashamed to shake hands with him. I did.” 

Bill spoke to Professor Carver directly. “I suppose you 
know you’re a nigger?” 

“Yes. I know.” 

In that sort of mind there existed nothing to which one 
could appeal. Some people were so big you couldn’t whip 
them and others were too small to reason with. Of course 
you could say, “He didn’t agree with me so I knocked him 
down, but then you fell to his level. Petty persecutions were 
the manifestations of small and mean persons who, by exer- 
cising them, proved themselves inferior. 

Professor Carver proceeded about his business in the 
serene knowledge that not he but they were being degraded. 
There are three kinds of ignorance,” he sometimes said. 
The first is the old-fashioned, ‘don’t-know’ ignorance. The 
second, which is worse, is the ‘don’t-know-and-don’t-care’ 
Ignorance. And the third is ‘cussed’ ignorance, which is the 
worst of all.’’ Those who were afflicted with the last-named 
Iterance laid a curse upon themselves; by making them- 
selves ridiculous in the eyes of dispassionate observers they 
stultified themselves. 



284 George Washington Carver 

He expressed this sentiment again in his own idiom: “I 
feel most strongly that we have no right to ask God to change 
fixed laws of the universe. If we plant oats, we must expect 
to harvest oats and not com or beans. If we sow hate and 
wrongdoing in our lives, we must expect to reap the awful 
results.” 

For himself, he was not particularly concerned with be- 
havior patterns ; his interest was not related so much to why 
people did things as it was to how. If they disappointed him. 
he simply crossed them off the list. He maintained at least a 
surface disregard either of open insult or condescension of 
the “dear-old-uncle” school. Most of the pan was skim milk 
and must ever remain so. 

More often than not something occurred to reassert his 
natural merriment. An old colored lady from a far section in 
the hills used to come in each morning very early at the same 
time to see the exhibit. “Handsome as I was,” the professor 
mourned, “she paid no attention to me.” Peering through her 
glasses, she would read the labels out loud. “Shoeblack!” 
How wonderful that was, and so was coffee and so was milk. 
By the fourth morning she had worked her way through to 
the paints. “Paints made from peanuts !” She pushed her sun- 
bonnet back and her spectacles up. “Mebbe so, but Ah don’ 
b’lieve it. Ef he’d jes lef dat off Ah mighta b’lieved it!” 

On his journeys Professor Carver picked up his own par- 
ticular kind of fun where he could find it. Time and again he 
entertained himself by standing on the platform solemnly 
waiting for those who were to meet him to distinguish the 
scientist in the trappings of the apparent farmer. Often his 
own people set an undue store by dressing smartly or even too 
flamboyantly, and he leaned over backward not to do the 
same. The reception committee would turn away from the 
nondescript figure alongside some boxes, little cap squashed 
down on his head, and say, “I guess Dr. Carver didn’t come. 

He was proceeding once toward a chautauqua in Rich- 
mond when his familiar imp took possession of him. Day w^ 
just beginning to break as the train approached the city, and 



^‘Let Us Break Bread Together” 285 

the porter waded through women and children and banana 
peelings, shaking the men whose tickets in their hatbands 
proclaimed they were supposed to get off at Richmond. Pro- 
fessor Carver had no hatband because he had no hat, only 
the little cap. When the train had pulled into the station 
three gentlemen attired in frock coats and white gloves came 
through. He scrounched down in his seat as though he were 
asleep, and looked so unpromising that the porter let him 
slumber on. 

The train was about twelve miles out when the conductor 
stopped in the aisle and asked for his ticket. “What are you 
doing here?” he demanded. 

“Fm riding,” said Professor Carver innocently. 

The conductor dressed down the porter for not having 
called him, and then said, “We’re nearer Hanover than we 
are Richmond, but we’ll back up.” He added doubtfully, 
“There’s a return train at twelve, but we’ll back up,” 

However, Professor Carver took pity on him, said there 
was a man in the town ahead he wanted to see anyhow, and 
he would take the twelve o’clock back. So the conductor did 
some telegraphing and Professor Carver was placed on the 
return train. This time he really did descend at Richmond 
and was duly greeted by the three frock-coated gentlemen. 
Their appearance amused him so he had to tell funny stories 
all the way to his destination so he himself would have an 
excuse for laughing. 

He thoroughly enjoyed his private joke and deflating 
pompous individuals by taking them down a buttonhole or 
two. At one of the hotels, where what seemed a necessary 
compromise was being made between having him an hon- 
ored guest and segregating him, the proprietor himself came 
up to his room where he was to have his dinner to see that the 
linen and silver were correctly arrayed. There must be no 
laxness in serving such an honored guest. With pencil poised 
he went through the menu. Would the doctor care for a 
portion of this or would a select bit of that tempt his fancy? 
And when he had gone down the list the doctor quite sweetly 



200 George Washington Carver 

said he would like a litde bit of turnip greens and some fat 
pork. 

A new group of white businessmen — a doctor, a druggist, 
a la\v7er, and a college president — were again attempting 
commercialization of Professor Carver’s products, this time 
with his peanut and creosote remedy, which was copy- 
righted under the name Penol. Though he would not allow 
exploitation either by the use of his name or his picture, he 
again looked on benignly and spent two weeks in the Sharp 
and Dohme laboratories supervising its preparation. This 
venture actually proceeded as far as manufacture, but again 
no one had the business acumen to abandon his own business 
and devote himself exclusively to that. Finally the bank fail- 
ures and the depression left the town of Tuskegee with- 
out capital. 

Mr. R. H. Powell, one of the members of the Penol Com- 
pany, like Mr. Thompson, was secure enough in his position 
to be able to sponsor Professor Carver, in the interests of 
building up the business. Shortly before the stock-market 
crash, Mr. Powell arranged for him to talk on peanuts before 
the Lions’ Club of Columbus, Georgia. 

The professor, naturally, could not attend the banquet. 
A waiter came to his room to tell him dinner was being 
serv ed, but he sent his regrets ; he had already had his supper 
and was still busy preparing his talk. When he was sum- 
moned a second time, he went down. 

Unfortunately the dinner guests, practical men, eighty or 
a hundred of them, who seldom thought of anything except 
making money, had not yet finished. However, they ignored 
the solecism, and Mr. Powell made a glowing introduction. 
“I am a Southerner, with all a Southerner’s traditions, but I 
want to say to you young people, now is the time to begin 
thinking along other lines — lines of opportunity for all peo- 
ple.” This was accounted a brave thing for a Southerner to 
announce publicly. 

Journalists, who wrote for the weeklies and monthlies as 
distinguished from reporters who wrote for the dailies, began 



*‘Let Us Break Bread Together’^ 


287 


lO “discover” Professor Car\'er. They sought his name in 
Who’s ’Who and found that he had been born a slave and 
ended ^v•ith the Fellowship, a gulf which had never been 
bridged by any man. Drama leaped to the eye. Efficiency 
Magazine, of London, published an editorial: “If I were 
asked what Ihing man had the ^vorst start and the best finish, 
I would say Dr. Car\ er. It is a great loss to us that we have 
no one like him in England.” 

American journalists sought him at Tuskegee, but he could 
not reminisce as one ^vith a happier past might ha\-e done. 
He had buried his memories and wished them to remain 
buried; only a painful psychological struggle could exhume 
them. He saw no good reason for undergoing this ordeal, 
particularly in view of the results. Usually he had little to 
say about himself, save perhaps a placating anecdote in the 
interests of poHteness. The journalists emerged with stories 
which ^vere half fantasy— as they imagined they should have 
been. He himself, \Nith only the mildest curiosity, read the 
reports and watched the legend grow, making no effort to 
correct even the obHous inaccuracies. He was entertained by 
the effusions, as he often was when he rose to speak on the 
lecture platform. He frequently started his talk with, “I like 
to hear m)self introduced because I learn so many things 
about myself I never knew before.” 


The journalists ^’ariously referred to Professor Car\’er as 
the “’Wizard of Tuskegee,” the “Negro Burbank,” “Colum- 
bus of the Son,” and a black Nvorker of ^vhite magic, but 
many also were tripped by the snare of associative pattern 
words. Since he was an object of affection he fell into the 
plantation darky” or “weU-loved” categor>’; he ^vas com- 
mon4' described as “old” and his walk as “shuffling.” 

The “humble” peanut and the “lowly” sweet potato were 
hnnly tagged ^vith these adjectives, though no one ever ex- 
plamed why the amino acids of a peanut should be anv more 
humble than those cut from the beUy of a steer, or the glucose 
oI a sweet potato more lowly than that of a grape. “Humble,” 
too, was Professor CaiAer himself, though no one who knew 



288 


George Washington Carver 

him well had ever seen him bow in humility before anything 
except the mamfestations of Nature and his God. 

He was not, however, arrogant. That trait he left to those 
who called upon him. 

As late as 1940 a reporter from the Piedmont of Green- 
ville, South Carolina, went seeking an interview and had 
this to say: 

The Doctor did not ordinarily receive visitors; he was too busy. 
But at my insistence he did so, with courtesy. Today he is Dr. George 
W . Carver and Southerners, with their customary understanding of 
the race problem, have no hesitancy in saying “Dr. Carver.” . . . 
Dr. Carver arose as I entered. His hands were filled ^vith books or 
papers or something. I nodded, making myself known. Dr. Carver 
returned the greeting. His hands still worked with the papers, show- 
ing that he was a student of the South and knew what to do under 
the circumstances. I tell this because many, like myself, may have 
wondered about the details of such an interview. ... In appear- 
ance he resembles hundreds of the antebellum negroes who were a 
common sight in the South a few years ago. . . . Just an old negro 
humbly, respectfully talking to a visitor. 

The picture had a brighter and more hopeful side, how- 
ever. Julia Collier Harris, daughter-in-law of Joel Chandler 
Harris, wrote a eulogistic editorial in the Enquirer-Sun of 
Columbus, Georgia. A biologist of repute had said Dr. Carver 
was “an avatar, an embodiment of the genius of his race, 
a vessel, as it were, into which the peculiar gifts, tendencies, 
and possibilities of generations of the Negro raee, far back 
to ancient times, had been distilled.” 

To those who had spent so many years with Professor 
Carver at Tuskegee he would always remain “The Profes- 
sor.” But most people had fallen into the habit of referring 
to him as “Doctor,” originally to avoid the forbidden “Mis- 
ter,” and then, when Northern papers had been pleased to 
copy, out of respect for his scientific status. 

It was eminently fitting that his first college, Simpson, was 
first to recognize him academically, by conferring an honor- 
ary Doctor of Science degree in 1928. Its president, John 



*^Let Us Break Bread Together^* 289 

L. Hillman, said that Dr. Carver was Simpson’s most dis- 
tinguished son, and these were probably no idle words. When 
a later president, John Owen Gross, visited Tuskegee in 1 94 1 , 
he amplified this statement even more significantly, “Among 
the cherished memories that Simpson College will always 
possess is the consciousness that it did not fail him when he 
came knocking for admission. It will always rejoice in the 
fact that it did not make race or color the basis for entrance.” 



CHAPTER XXI 


"The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith” 


Southern galiantry had stood up nobly under 
physical combat but had faltered most ignobly under eco- 
nomic competition. So long as the South merited the amused 
contempt of more enterprising sections of the coimtry, it 
would continue to suffer under what it called “the strangle 
hold of the North.” Absentee ownership and prohibitive 
freight rates undoubtedly existed, but these could be over- 
come by a sufficiently determined effort. 

With unabated faith Dr. Carver continued to reiterate 
that the “Let-George-do-it” type would perish from the 
South. Eventually Southerners would stop blaming their 
inertia on this “strangle hold.” They would be forced by 
circumstances to co-operate and would get the habit. They 
would finally realize they must join hands with the rest of 
the country and all go along together to keep their belated 
rendezvous. 

Wherever Dr. Carver might be, though it were on a stuffy 
train, he did not deviate from his accustomed practice of 
rising at four; the dawn does not come twice to wake a man. 
Through smoky windows he could see the sun awake and 
light the face of Nature, and even in the fleeting glimpses 
thus caught she spoke to him of how she mamfested herself. 
Or, if he were already established in a town as of the night 
before, he was up and out into the country whenever it was 
at all possible, to see what this particular bit of the earth’s 
surface might have to offer. Then he could tell those who 
would attend upon his words what wealth they possessed 
right there at home. 



“The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith’^ 291 

Immediately after the Armistice the country had been 
threatened with a serious shortage of drug crops, and in the 
summer of 1919 the United States Department of Agricul- 
ture asked Dr. Carver to make an investigation of medicinal 
plants native to Macon County that might profitably be 
raised there. He had compiled a list, with botanical and 
common names and the usable parts of the plant, of a hun- 
dred and fifteen, many of which were already recognized by 
the United States Pharmacopoeia. This he had published in 
the hope that some farmers would be inspired to turn a por- 
tion of their acreage over to the cultivation of medicinal and 
potherbs, with advantage to themselves and to the drug 
industry. 

Since that time he had always in his journeying kept a 
weather eye out for vegetable drugs. “An overland trip 
recently to Marianna and Panama City, Florida, impressed 
me favorably with the possibilities of a factory for the manu- 
facturing of drugs from the multiplicity of roots, barks, herbs, 
etc., which I saw in considerable quantities. Some of these 
could be cultivated and made at least a fine supplement to 
other farm crops, or even paying crops of themselves.” He 
offered reporters a list of fifty Florida plants with their his- 
tory and the current price. “This does not include all I saw, 
and more extensive search may disclose many more. But I 
trust enough has been said to awaken into activity a much- 
neglected industry.” 

At the conclusion of a ten-day tour of Virginia he repeated 
a sumlar exhortation. ‘ I am filled with enthusiasm and 
hope,” he said to Virginians. “I thought of the challenging 
manufacturing opportunities for pharmaceutical drug labo- 
ratories and made a list of fifty-six medicinal plants of value.” 

The fall of 1927 he attended a Negro state fair at Tulsa, 
Oklahoma, to demonstrate what lay wrapped in the rough 
and brittle shell of the peanut. One morning early he trekked 
up Stand Pipe Hill and came back carrying in his hands 
twenty-seven indigenous plants containing medicinal proper- 
ties. At that day’s lecture he showed them. “ ‘Where there is 



^92 George Washington Carver 

no vision the people perish.’ I found dovvn in Ferguson’s 
drugstore seven patent medicines containing in their for- 
mulas certain elements also contained in these plants on 
Stand Pipe Hill. The preparations were shipped in from 

New \ ork. They should be shipped out from Stand Pipe 
Hill.” ^ 

Dr. Carver made little differentiation between colored and 
w'hite audiences; what applied to one should apply to the 
other, and the varied kinds of opportunities should be avail- 
able to all. At another talk during fair week he said the w^hole 
theory of geological science was going to be revolutionized, 
and the change w^ould mark the end of dry holes. “Someone 
will state oil is here and oil is there, and oil will be where he 
lays his finger. It might as w^ell be one of you.” 

His natural inquisitiveness had led him to the West Tulsa 
Refinery of the Mid-Continent Petroleum Corporation 
Waste always attracted his attention, and the large amount 
to be found here, even after the benzene, gasoline, and 
naphtha had been taken from the crude oil, w^as no excep- 
tion. He asked that samples of sludge be sent him at Tuske- 
gee for experiment. It was done, and from this sludge he 
produced many shades of dyes and an asphaltic rubber. 

Constantly Dr. Carver sought to excite the South into 
interest in learning to develop its own resources. After an- 
other visit to Florida he came back emphasizing veneers. “I 
was especially interested in the lovely palms, var>^ing in size, 
appearance, and usefulness from the charming little zamias 
to the majestic royal types. The wood from some of these, 
when cut into thin plates and used as a veneer, makes a w^ood 
so distinctly odd and beautiful in grain that it has to be seen 
to be appreciated. I have several small panels made from the 
procumbent stems of one of the Sabal types, which never 
fails to elicit exclamations of surprise and delight at a type 
of beauty all its own. From this angle alone there is w^ealth in 
these roots and stems, if developed commercially.” 

Dr. Carver could not speak of the mineral and vegetable 
Dossibilities of the South in very loud tones, because the 



"The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith” 293 

voice of a Negro lacked authority. But he did state the facts 
whenever he had the chance. The Atlanta Constitution, the 
Birmingham Reporter, and the Montgomery Advertiser all 
faithfully published his reminders that opportunity lay at 
Southern doorsteps. The Advertiser went further; it issued 
an excellent brochure called Negro Scientist Shows "Way 
Out” for Southern Farmers, written by Osburn Zuber, an 
associate editor. 

Occasionally the small cry was heard in the wilderness of 
indifference; not all Southerners, of course, preferred the 
easy way of laying upon the past an excuse for the failures of 
the present. It was costing a small industrialist a large sum to 
clear his land of palmetto. Could Dr. Carver suggest any use 
to which this waste might be put? Dr. Carver could and did; 
he made veneers that were soon being manufactured and 
bringing prosperity to a furniture factory. 

Those who had hearkened most attentively, the peanut 
men, had profited the most, and their loyalty and gratitude 
to Dr. Carver were proportionate. Mr. Tom Huston of 
Columbus, Georgia, employed very concrete methods of 
acknowledging his debt. He had sent a chemist, W. Wade 
Moss, over to Tuskegee to consult Dr. Carv’er about the oil 
settling out of his peanut butter. Mr. Moss stayed off and on 
for several years, returning between times to Mr. Huston 
with his information. 

Mr. Huston was lavish with appreciative gifts. Once he 
brought a sealskin blanket. Dr. Carv^er thanked him and put 
it in moth balls at the bottom of a trunk, where it apparently 
remained. 

Another time he asked, “What do you want most?” 

Surprisingly, Dr. Carver replied, “I want a diamond.” 

“If you want a diamond you shall have it.” 

Mr. Huston procured a fine stone, had it mounted in a 
platinum ring, and dispatched it to his friend. He asked 

Mr. Moss to find out M^hether Dr. Carver had liked the 
present. 

“Where’s your diamond?” asked Mr. Moss. 



^94 George Washington Carver 

Dr. Carver opened his geological specimen case and there 
It %vas among the minerals. 

As a final tribute Mr. Huston wished to make a gift to 
Tuskegee Institute. He sent a sculptor, Isabel Schultz of 

Baltimore, to design a bronze wall plaque of Dr. Carver’s 
head. 

The light sprinkling of cropped hair seemed a scant cover- 
ing for Dr. Carv'er s orderly brain, and the flowing mustache 
of his youth had long since had its wings clipped. But the 
beak of a nose still dominated the square chin and triangu- 
lar eyes, which had retreated further under the high fore- 
head, wrinkled like a hound’s. Those hazel, almost green, 
eyes had lost little of their keenness. Only when he was 
reading did he perch spectacles on his nose, ample to hold 
more sturdy affairs than these small, old-fashioned, gold- 
rimmed glasses, the broken bows held together with black 
tape and a piece of copper wire. 

Dr. Carver's hands and mind were busy at something else 
while he \vas supposed to be sitting for his portrait. Miss 
Schultz kept asking, “How does that look?” but he was dis- 
turbed by the interruptions and, without even glancing up, 
responded, “How do I know how I look?” 

The plaque was finished and ready to be presented by 
Commencement of 1931. Dr. Robert Russa Moton, who had 
been called from Hampton Institute at the death of Wash- 
ington to guide Tuskegee on its way, considered it right and 
proper that an occasion should be made of the presentation. 
But when Dr. Carver was told he must don cap and gown, he 
rebelled. 

“I won’t wear it!” he said emphatically. 

“Yes, you will !” retorted Dr. Moton equally emphatically. 
“I’ll put it on you.” 

Thereupon Dr. Moton chased Dr. Carver up the drive- 
way, past Washington’s tomb, and almost to the hospital. 
But Dr. Moton was big and powerful and Dr. Carver was 
not. Dr. Carver came back wearing his gown and mortar- 
board, the tassel on the wrong side as usual. 



^^The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith*^ 


295 

Seventy-five per cent of Dr. Carver’s vast correspondence, 
averaging one hundred and fifty letters a day, asked for 
advice and help. A man might inquire about peanut-butter- 
making machinery when the letterhead showed he lived only 
a few miles from the center of the peanut-butter-processing 
country. Just reading such letters took up a good deal of Dr. 
Carver’s time, and he had to expend more time in answering 
them. They would start, “I know you’re busy,” and then 
ramble on for pages. A good rule, he said, was just to look at 
the last paragraph; what was really wanted would be con- 
tained in that. He did not follow this rule himself, but 
answered them all in scrupulous detail, and neatly marked 
them as such. 

With considerable amusement he once caught a visitor 
eying this accumulation in some astonishment. “You are 
looking at my truly awful desk, but I don’t feel so bad about 
it as I once did. I once had a Chinese assistant who classified 
this conglomeration as ^orderly disorder.’ ” This statement 
was amply proved as he dived like a terrier into the pile of 
papers and pamphlets and books which towered well above 
his head when he was seated and, after only a few moments’ 

rummaging, emerged triumphantly grasping the particular 
thing he wanted. 

Of the remaining 25 per cent of his letters, most were 
petitions to speak or broadcast, though there was also a 
miscellaneous smattering of this and that. In one mail would 
come an application to borrow a painting, a definition of the 
word “American,” a biographical sketch of himself from 
Nyassaland, or a prayer someone wanted in a book. 

His answer to this last was simple : 

My prayers seem to be more of an attitude than anything else. I 
indulge m very little lip service, but ask the Great Creator silently, 
daily, and often many times a day, to permit me to speak to Him 
through the three great Kingdoms of the world which He has created 
--the animal, mineral, and vegetable Kingdoms— to understand 
their relations to each other, and our relations to them and to the 
reat God Who made all of us. I ask Him daily and often momentlv 



296 George Washington Carver 

to give me wisdom, understanding, and bodily strength to do His 
will; hence I am asking and receiving all the time. 

The letter, as it did in 1930, might contain a request from 
the USSR to come to Russia and help with the agricultural 
program. He declined this inxitation for the same reasons 
that had directed him when he declined other invitations to 
leave Tuskegee, but John Sutton, who had been one of his 
assistants, went in his stead. 

The voluminous mail Dr. Carv’er received from his boys, 
both colored and white, compensated for some of the more 
troublesome epistles and was, as he said, a sweet thing to live 
for. Several of the white lads in towm were devoted to him, 
and one or another was usually trailing him in and out of 
doors. When they went away to school, he remembered their 
birthdays and they kept in touch. 

His interest in young people was as fervent as ever; he 
was not concerned with the pigmentation of their skins but 
with their youth, and in doing what he could to see that each 
.started out in life ^vith his best foot foremost. Circumstances 
sometimes hampered him; he could help the races independ- 
ently, though never together. A German youth attending 
Antioch College had read about Dr. Carver and hitchhiked 
dowm to Tuskegee for the purpose of studying with him. 
Alabama law promptly sent him away again; he was not 
permitted to learn alongside colored boys. 

Segregation must always, in fact, be taken into account. A 
man in Mexico who raised a miUion coconuts a year asked Dr. 
Carver to come do\m and conduct an experimental labora- 
tor}^ for him. Dr. Car\'er saw in this a chance to ^ve a boost 
to a young white friend from the University of North Caro- 
lina. He replied that he could not stay away from Tuskegee 
permanently, but he ^vould come down for a short time, 
bringing an assistant mth him. After two weeks the young 
man should be able to continue on his own and Dr. Carver 
would leave him there. The planter ^vrote back that he 
regretted the fact but, the young man being white, he could 



‘‘The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith’' 


297 

not work in the same laboratory with Dr. Carver. And that, 
so far as Dr. Carver was concerned, closed the correspond- 
ence. 

When the parents of local boys were perplexed, they, too, 
sought the wise understanding which had resolved some of 
their sons difficulties. Lloyd G. had been one of his devotees, 
and he had got the boy a job in work he liked. Then Lloyd’s 
father asked Dr. Carver whether he would have a talk with 
his younger son, Fred, who had been studying electrical 
engineering at the Georgia School of Technology but did not 
seem happy about it. 

“If he has any inferiority complex about white and colored 
people,” responded Dr. Carver, “don’t bring him. He may 
not like me.” 

But the boy was brought, and they talked a bit. Afterward 
Dr. Carver reported to Mr. G.: “You’ll never make an 
electncal engineer out of Fred. He’s a fine young chap, but 
he’s not doing what he ought to do. He could string wires and 
climb a pole, but when I think of an electrician I think of 
Edison. He’ll never make an Edison; he isn’t fitted for it ” 

“What is he fitted for?” 

“He can come out here and I’U coach him along a little. 
Then we’ll see.” 


“If you’re sure you don’t mind, I’U let him walk around 
after you, but I’ll charge him not to bother you.” 

Fred did this for three months, and Dr. Carver, just to give 

^ a perspective view of Nature and try to find out where 

his natural aptitudes lay, started him sketching. When he 

Sr drawings, he let him begin on color and take 

the results home. 

u announced to the worried parents “is 

what Fred is fitted for.” parents, is 

Fred was placed in a position where his artistic gifts could 

proved that Dr. Carver had been right. 

country people, seeing Dr. 
Carver with his hands fuU of plants, had assLed he was 



298 George Washington Carver 


an herb doctor; they had carried their sick children to him, 
and he had given them counsel as to where they could find 
proper medical aid. 

Sometimes the white boys who seemed to be forever hang- 
ing around had muscular afflictions, and these he himself 
could help. He called up his old technique of massage at 
which his fingers had been so magical when he was rubber 
for the athletic teams at Ames, 

One boy had been kicked on the kneecap by a horse. The 
ligaments had been tom and in healing had tightened and 
made one leg six inches shorter than the other. Dr. Carver 
rubbed the leg daily with peanut oil, and in six weeks the boy 
was walking with only a limp. In a year he was striding along 
perfectly, and shortly after that he began pitching for his 
college baseball team. Then came an infantile-paralysis vic- 
tim, and Dr. Carver began to work on his withered leg with 
the same spectacular success. The lad gradually shifted from 
cmtches to cane and was eventually playing football. 

Dr. Car\'er had had additional confirmation of the efficacy 


of the peanut massaging oil he had long ago developed for 
fattening infants. To some of the white women of the town 
he had presented a face-cream preparation with a peanut- 
oil base. They had been delighted over its texture until some 
who were inclined to gain ^veight brought it back saying they 
could not use it; it made their faces fat. If peanut oil would 
nourish healthy facial muscles, why might it not do the same 
for atrophied muscles? Perhaps it would be more effective as 
a rubbing oil than the mineral or cottonseed oils which were 
then a part of the routine care for infantile-paralysis victims. 

Poliomyelitis had hit the country a few years before, sud- 
denly and with astounding force. Doctors had watched its 
hideous trail helplessly, and terror had mounted among 
parents. Dr. Carver happened to tell one day of the two boys 
he had treated and remarked that one of them was now 
plaving football. He added that peanut oil might become an 

aid'in treating the aftereffects of poliomyelitis. ^ 

December 31, New Year’s Eve of 1932, the Associated 



‘'The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith** 299 

Press picked up the story. Instantly the word of possible sal- 
vation spread and he was deluged with tragic letters implor- 
ing him to send them the “cure.” His correspondence reached 
truly alarming proportions, and answering it became an 
almost insuperable task. During the month of January alone 
he received 1,495 letters. Messages came by telegraph, spe- 
cie delivery, and long-distance telephone. Chemists, doctors, 
scientists, and quacks wanted to get in contact with him; 
masseurs and health-resort directors begged for instruction; 
shysters offered counsel and legal advice ; manufacturers sent 
contracts just sign and return.” He was swamped with 
appeals for a pint, a quart, a gallon of the oil. It would have 
taken a factory to fill the demand. 

Of course he had to say he had no “cure.” He was pro- 
foundly embarrassed, because again his denial went un- 
heeded. 


But hope would not be denied. There began a rush to 
Tuskegee of frantic parents bringing their crippled children 
They came from Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee 
in a continuous stream. Automobiles were lined up outside 
his office from dawn until long after sundown. His week 
^ds were completely given over to these pathetic victims, 
unday after Sunday, all day long from seven in the morning 

o five m the evenmg, until he was exhausted, he labored- 
rubbing, rubbing, rubbing. 

>“ close 

uch wth physicians, that nothing might go wrong. Physical 
erapists, however, could learn much from him. He would 
1™ his long, sensitive fingers over the afflicted area and say, 

‘I’c moscie so accurately he 
nnght have been dissecting it out. 

buf nf*r O'™ 

Ut of some two hundred and fifty cases he treated from 

toys Of tfflrteen to middle-aged men, all showed 

mm of the nervous systems and collapsed muscles, some- 

ta^ of a^mimgly miraculous nature. One man had been 

P unced incurable; he was completely helpless and could 



300 George Washington Carver 


speak only disconnected words. But Dr. Carver soon had him 
\\ alking and talking almost normally. And the muscles of 
those Dr. Carver treated began to increase rapidly, by actual 
measurements. 

In 1939 the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis 
had raised sufficient money from the President’s Birthday 
Balls to make its first large grant. Crippled children whose 
skins were dark could not be admitted to the Georgia Warm 
Springs Foundation, so a poliomyelitis center was established 
at Tuskegee, and the brilliant young orthopedist, Dr. John 
W. Chenault, directed it. He continued the experimenta- 
tion. On one leg of one patient cottonseed oil was used, 
peanut oil on the other; the former increased around the calf 
only a quarter inch, the latter, one inch. 

For his own use Dr. Carver had made up a series of ten 
oils of varying weights and viscosity, because skins also varied 
in their absorptive powers. But these were not for sale. Any- 
one could purchase a gallon of peanut oil at any drug or 
grocer)’ store. If he would make no profit on potentially com- 
mercial products, certainly he would make none on therapeu- 


tic oils. 

The General Education Board of the Rockefeller Foimda- 
tion, which made extensive grants to Tuskegee Institute, 
found it difficult to understand why Dr. Caiv^er’s assistants 
should rccei\’e larger salaries than he, but he had never asked 
for an increase over his original one, and it had never been 
suggested. “I guess if they thought I was worth more than 
that, they would have offered it,” he said. This was in fun, 
but he had little need of money and continued to be negli- 
gent about cashing his checks. They were tucked away m a 
trunk or loose in the clutter on his desk. Sometimes when he 
was going through the accumulation of papers a check would 

fall out dated six months before. 

The fiscal year was up in May, and the measurer of 
Institute would appeal to Dr. Moton to see that Dr. Carver 
checks were cashed before the arrival of the auditors, so tha 
L books could be balanced. But Dr. Moton merely threw 



“The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith‘s 


301 


up his hands. “I can’t do anything with him. Nobody can.” 

At the beginning of 1933, when banks were crashing all 
over the country, including the two in Tuskegee and the one 
at Ames in which Dr. Carver still kept an account, someone 
was kind enough to be concerned over his savings and in- 
quired as to whether he knew the banks had failed. “Yes,” 
he replied. “I heard about it. All I have is in those three. I 
guess somebody found a use for the money. I wasn’t using 
it. He had lost something like forty thousand dollars, but 
beyond making this statement he never discussed the matter. 

One of the Tuskegee banks was paying fifty cents on the 
dollar and offered him a certified check for the amount. 
No, thank you,” he replied. “I put in one hundred cents on 
the dollar.” They offered him cotton; he could store it 
awhile and sell it when prices were better. “No, thank you. I 
didn’t put cotton in the bank.” Finally he was prevailed 
upon to accept a farm near Tuskegee in part payment. He 
had little interest in it and did not even go to see it. He had 
never had any financial luck with cotton. If he sold a bale, he 
usually did so at a loss, and then the next day the price would 

go up. Eventually he did, however, realize a certain amount 
on the farm itself. 

"niree resistless changes had been for some time tendin? 
to place the farmers of the Southern states in an even more 
deplorable position than ever before. 

Time was when the country had a virtual monopoly on 
cotton, but other nations went into production to make them- 
selves more self-sufficient, until the United States became 
0 y one of fifty. Also, the manufacture of artificial fibers 
which were superior to and cheaper than cotton was on the 
mcrease; rayon had become the third largest textile. And, 

y, mechamzation, though slower there than in othei 
0^ 0 agriculture, was beginning to spread over the cotton 


““’^drudgery. 

but the fim effects can be disastrous unless plans are rnade 
beforehand to take up the slack. From the beginning of Z 



302 George Washington Carver 

twentieth century manufacturers had been experimenting 
with mechanical cotton pickers. The steel fingers of one of 
the latest models, tried on flat Mississippi land, could do in a 
day the work of a man’s hand requiring three and a half 
months. 

But tractors and pickers could not negotiate the small hill- 
sides of Alabama and Georgia. King Cotton had grown rest- 
less from the irritating beetle bites. He had spread westward 
to Texas and Oklahoma where the boll weevil was not so 
severe and where the wide spaces did not hamper mechani- 
zation. The cotton growers of the Old South were con- 
demned to the most primitive of all forms of agriculture, 
employing small implements and hand labor in competition 
with the mass production of the Southwest. These were not 
merely onerous but ruinously expensive. Where plowing and 
planting four rows with a tractor cost only five dollars an 
acre, the same amount with one mule cost over a hundred 
dollars. 

With the production of rayon going up in the ’20s the 
price of cotton went steadily down. Southern warehouses 
were choked with bales that nobody would buy, and they 
overflowed into the streets of almost every little town. There 
they stood, season after season, their numbers slowly but 
relentlessly increasing. Somebody must find new uses for this 
unwanted commodity. 

Early in the decade Dr. Carver began to indicate the 
possibility of absorbing some of the surplus in road building. 
Later, this general idea was put into effect in South Carolina, 
where an experimental stretch of road was laid, using tar 
and rock and a layer of cotton fabric and then more tar and 
gravel on top. The cotton served to bind the asphalt together 
in much the same manner as steel bars in concrete. 

But Dr. Carver had a different plan, which was to mix 
asphalt with cotton linters immediately after ginning, thus 
eliminating the cost of labor and machinery for weaving the 
fabric. So he made paving blocks of this intimate mixture 
which would greatly cut down the wear on the asphalt of 



''The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith’* 303 

secondary roads and greatly increase the resiliency, and in- 
vited highway engineers to lay a mile of test road. The 
blocks had the added advantage of utilizing about forty bales 
to the mile, whereas the woven cloth would use no more 
than six to eight. 

Another use for the cotton excess Dr. Carver advanced 
at this time was in wallboard. He had already made in- 
sulating and building board from yucca stems and leaves, 
sunflower stalks, cornstalks, sawdust, spent canna stems, and 
cotton stalks. But now he laid special emphasis on the 
superior board, light and strong, he had constructed from 
short-staple cotton. 

These were suggestions for the future. Nothing could pre- 
vent Ae debacle of 1930. Calamity struck the already im- 
poverished South with greater force than anywhere else in 
the country. The price of cotton dropped to a new low, 
practically starvation level. Cotton farmers were sinking 

fast, and blaming them for their helplessness would not 
remedy the situation. 


A nw day dawned in the South in 1933 with the advent 
of the Roosevelt Administration. The North, as represented 
by the Government at Washington, had tardily excised the 
mdeous cancer of slavery, won the Civil War, and “freed 
the slaves.” But it had seemed to take the attitude that after- 
care was not the business of the surgeon. It had metaphori- 
<^y washed its hands of the South without first disinfecting 
the wound, and the germs of trouble had festered deeply 
wer smce, insidiously debilitating the entire country. No less 
man a human being could a country maintain its efficiency 
It one member were diseased. 


Federarr authority of the 

ten sll had 

tags had been learned which could be handed on to the 
powerful newcomer in the field of salvation. 

e summer of ’33 Secretary of Agriculture Henry A. 



304 George Washington Carver 

Wallace went South. “Earnest Henry,” he wa.«. called in 
Washington — a name well earned, because he was in sober 
earnest about the rights of human beings to happiness. He 
was traveling from state to state, probing into the evils that 
some cure might be found, and Dr. Carver invited him to 
stop at Tuskegee. 

In his address at the Institute, Secretary Wallace rem- 
inisced affectionately of the days when as a little boy he 
had trotted by the side of the ardent young botanist, George 
W. Carver, across the wide expanse of the Iowa State cam- 
pus, discovering the pleasures of delving into the mysteries 
of growing things and developing a kinship with them. 

Then he went on to explain what the new Administration 
had in mind to do — to improve the machinery of social ad- 
justment and to balance production. Success would be de- 
pendent upon a right feeling in the human heart. An 
imrelenting fight must be carried on against prejudice, greed, 
hatred, fear, and ignorance. No matter what laws might be 
enacted they would fail of their purpose if the heart were 
not right. More was needed than science and economics; 
spiritual insight must be added before matters could be set 

straight. 

Dr. Carver had Httle to say to this intention save a fervent 
Amen. He spoke only a few words: “I haven’t any good 
excuse for being here except that I was ordered to come. 
However, I want to quote a passage to you. ‘Seest thou a 
man diligent in his business? he shall stand before kmgs. I 
want to impress that on the young people. Such a man is 
Secretary Wallace.’ 

Secretary WaUace’s promises were speedily put mto ettect. 
One of the first acts of the Federal Government m that fet 
troubled year of hog-killing time was to throw out a life line 

by instituting a “program” for cotton. ^ 

As fast as such agencies as the Agricultural Adjusto^ 
Agency, the Tennessee Valley Authority, and the Fam 

Security Administration could be put m . 

Federal Government began to help the South to help itself 



"The Hind Wheel Runs by Faith” 


305 

on an enormously increased scale. Agents advocated diversi- 
fied farming, soil conservation, balanced diets through home 
vegetable gardens, home ownership — all the things Dr. 
Carver had advocated forty years earlier. But at last the 
familiar words were being spoken in tones of authority. 

Thousands of colored and white families were rehabilitated 
simply by removing them from submarginal lands which had 
been worn out by cotton to a few more productive acres, a 
weathertight house, and a sanitary privy, and by advancing 
a mule and a plow, some seed, and some fertilizer. Almost 
100 per cent they paid back this investment in human sal- 
vage and became self-respecting units as families, earning 
their own way in the social economy. 

Secretary Wallace came that way again in 1936 to look 
over the drought area, and again he stopped to see Tuskegee 
and Dr. Carver and to talk to five thousand assembled farm- 
ers and educators, and explain how the Administration was 
trying to bring about “a more uniform if less spectacular 
prosperity.” He reiterated his faith in a better human prod- 
uct, and the new president of the Institute, Dr. Frederick 
Douglass Patterson, responded with justified pride. ^'Seventy 
years after abolition we find that Negroes have worn well the 
responsibilities of freedmen. They have participated with 
courage and enthusiasm in all the measures looking to hu- 
man betterment, in proportion as they have been accorded 
the privilege.” 



CHAPTER XXII 


''To See How the End Will Be’^ 


From time to time it was thought seemly that 
Dr. Carver should have an assistant. Sometimes they foimd 
his idiosyncrasies too hard to cope with; sometimes, on the 
other hand, they could not even grasp his purposes. They 
were satisfactory in greater or less degree, but they were as- 
sistants chiefly in name. They participated very little in his 
work, which remained as private and individual as before. 
He had been alone for so long it had become an ingrained 
habit; he was psychologically unable to delegate authority 
to others. Unless he performed an act himself with his 
own hands, he did not feel he was sufficiently familiar 
with it. 

Another assistant came in the fall of 1935, a young man 
recently graduated from Cornell University, Austin W. 
Curtis, Jr. Dr. Carver opened the door of his laboratory a 
little way, greeted him pleasantly enough, told him he could 
look around and get adjusted, meet people, and find out how 
things were done at Tuskegee; over there was a room he 
could use. Then he closed the door again and dismissed Mr. 
Curtis from his mind. 

Mr. Curtis looked around as he had been told. Among 
other things he observed the seed of the magnolia grandi- 
flora. It contained oil, which might take the place of palm 
oil in soaps, so he began pulling it apart and putting it to- 
gether again. Occasionally he reported progress to his 
superior, who received the report in silence. If the young 
man were perplexed about a problem and asked about it. 
Dr. Carver asked him a question in return, and by the time 

306 




Dr. C!ar\cr in his siucl\ 





I'RlvSIDKNT FRANKLIN D. ROOSlA’RI/l' (iRI'.r/l IN(; DR. CARVER 



'To See How the End Will Be'’ 


307 


the brief colloquy was over, Mr. Curtis had answered his 
own inquiry himself. 

Mr. Curtis continued doggedly but cheerfully investigating 
the possibility of making synthetic leather from pumpkins 
and increasing the stock of vegetable colors. In about two 
months the situation had altered appreciably. He had 
proved he was a man of Dr. Carver’s own sort. He was in- 
vited to tell what he had accomplished, and what further he 
had in mind. Then Dr. Carver would make suggestions as to 
method, discuss the findings already reached, and make 
more suggestions as to how they could be improved. 

Advice and helpful criticism followed the neophyte 
through all the necessary phases of the work, including 
lecturing. After Mr. Curtis had made his first speech. Dr. 
Carver commented upon it. “Your delivery was fine and 
what you had to say was excellent, but people didn’t under- 
stand you. Bring it. down to earth.” And he repeated his old 

maxim, “Don’t put the fodder up so high the people cannot 
reach it.” 


At last someone had been welcomed not merely into Dr. 
Carvers laboratory, but also into his heart. He believed 
there was something providential in the coming of this young 
man, so intensely serious about his work and extremely com- 
petent at it, who was at the same time a genial companion; 
he was proud of him and loved and depended on him as his 
own son. Dr. Carver was over seventy now, and here was 
young strength in which he placed utter confidence, one who 
ully realized the significance of his work and could be 
coimted upon to carry it on. And the affection was returned 
m u measure. Mr. Curtis accompanied him everywhere 
seemg to his comfort, shielding him from intrusion, and act- 
ing as his official mouthpiece. 

The very charming relationship existing between them 
of en expressed itseK through keeping up a'merry fiction of 

mZ nrV t re- 

Lt on the^tr" a 

on, the older man would sav, “It surprises me how I 



3o8 George Washington Carver 

managed to live all these years without you. If you keep on 
aggravating me I shall lose my sweet disposition. Last night 
I lay awake worrying about you, tossing and turning and 
rolling for fully half a minute!” 

He would remove his glasses and look at his “Cub” and 
say severely, “You don’t suit me at all.” 

And the Cub would retort, “Sir, they say I grow more like 
Dr. Carver every day.” 

“That’s a faiiy^ tale. You’re enough to worry the horns off 
a mule.” Then he would tuck his hand into the arm of “my 
dear boy” and go off to see how the paint project was com- 
ing along. 

Ocher which Dr. Carver ground from clay by hand in 
crude bowls and with wooden pestles ranked with the most 
expensive French ocher. Nevertheless, he did not desire nor 
expect his products to compete with established manufac- 
tures. He advised Mr. Curtis, “Don’t put yourself in a false 
position. At best a farmer can get the sand out with a sack 
and a bucket of water, and take a paddle and stir up the oil. 
Commercial companies grind paints from twenty-four to 
forty-eight hours. You can’t place stirring with a case knife 
beside this.” 

On the other hand, the paint companies could not solve 
the paint problems of the rural population in the South, and 
these problems were as immediate as they had ever been. 
The homes were fashioned of unfinished lumber — of green 
pine with a high resin content— and its rough boards and 
open pores would drink up commercial paints, whether ex- 
pensiv^e or cheap, by the gallon. The color washes were for 
decoration, but a preservative which could be made by the 
farmer himself from waste products was needed. Dr. Carver 
had long ago unearthed the pigments; now a vehicle must 
be discovered. 

Linseed oil and tung oil were out of the question because 
of their costliness. Although mineral oils were not considered 
as satisfactory as vegetable oils, nevertheless, a possible 



See How the End Will 


309 

carrier might be found in discarded motor oil, for which Dr. 
Carver had already found a number of uses, including a 
rubberoid. Students brought in clay of all the colors to be 
found in near-by fields, gullies, and cut banks — red, yellow, 
gray, purple, white. These were mixed with the oil, and 
after nine months of exposure to all kinds of weather no 
changes had occurred which the eye could detect. 

This was laboratory proof, but the paint must be put to 
the test on the actual object for which it was destined. One 
day a new student in the home-economics class rose and told 
her little story. 

Her father’s farm, three miles from the center of the 
campus, had come under its inspiring sphere of influence; 
by following the agricultural tenets advocated there he had 
saved a little money. He wanted to make his home more 
attractive and more enduring. Some bushes had been planted 
in the yard and flowers in tin cans adorned the porch, but 
the building itself was drab and dingy. It needed decorating 
and defenses against the inroads of time. His daughter, how- 
ever, longed to go to school. This also seemed important. 

Pride in oumership and the desire for more education 
were still, as they had been seventy-five years before, march- 
ing companions. A choice had to be made, and higher 
education won. The money had gone for her tuition at Tus- 
kegee. Every day she walked the six miles to the seat of 
learning and back to her shabby home. If a demonstration 
were wanted for the durability of the paint she would offer 
her father’s house. The offer was accepted, and buckets and 
brushes soon transformed it. 

In the course of time Mr. Curtis also developed interior 
paints which could be fitted into the lo^v-cost housing 
project of the TVA and FSA or distributed through co- 
operatives at an almost unbelievably low figure. Not merely 
^d the houses so treated relieve the hideousness of the 
outhem scene, but they had a remarkable effect on the 
morale of those who now lived in homes fit for white men. 



310 George Washington Carver 

Mr. Curtis bade fair to become a worthy successor to Dr. 
Carver in experimentation in the new synthetic world which 
was rapidly opening out. Until the advent of the machine 
age, most of what man used for food, shelter, clothing, trans- 
portation, and trading came directly from the farm, but then 
mines took the place of farms as the source of raw material 
for the iron monsters, and the farmer suffered from lack of 
sufficient markets. The farmer collectively being the largest 
buyer, when he was unable to exercise his buying powers, 
industry suffered in proportion. 

Eventually the whole world suffered. Most of the mineral 
resources of the earth had been explored and tapped and 
would be exhausted in the course of time if they were not 
husbanded. Nations which lacked such essentials as iron and 
oil and coal went to war to secure the coveted treasures. 
They called it Lebensraum, but if substitutes could be made 
in the laboratory from materials which would otherwise be 
wasted, room for living would be available to all; the pri- 
mary cause of war would be eliminated. 

S>Tithetic plastics were practically as old as agriculture 
itself. They were made in the shadow of the pyramids from 
cooked starch, and celluloid collars antedated the twentieth 
century', but it took a world war to disclose their infimte 
potentialities to American industrialists. From 1918 on, the 
chemical industry made greater technological advances than 
even the automobile or aviation, and the great chemical 
companies which fed it, by getting in early, rapidly built 
up fabulous fortunes. 

The petroleum industry and the packing industry had 
learned to utilize much of their waste, the former in dyes and 
drugs and the latter in soaps and fertilizers, but insufficient 
investigation had been made of the by-products of agricul- 
ture. Not so long ago cottonseed was considered a nuisance 
around a gin. It was burned or dumped into the river to get 
it out of the way. Then it was discovered it could be used in 
cooking to take the place of lard. By 1919 there were fifteen 
or so products from cottonseed which were more valuable 



''To See How the End Will Be” 31 1 

than the lint itself, and before 1940 a “bald-headed” cotton 
had been specially developed in Texas whieh produeed a 
multitude of seeds but practically no fiber. 

When Dr. Car\’er was a student in Iowa, he had seen the 
genesis of the application of science to procedure in agrieul- 
ture. From the time he first began to practice this at Tuske- 
gee he had also seen and practiced the next step, of apply, 
ing science to its by-products. In the nineties he was pioneer- 
mg m fin^g new industrial uses for products of the soil, 

though his work suffered the delays incidental to any 
pioneering. ^ 


Eventually, however, others began to believe that the 
kmgpm of peace and progress was the farmer. Merely ap- 

. * *1 • M j, or trying to create 

an artificial scarcity of food by plowing under were emer- 
gency measures; a program was needed which would be 
constructive instead of destructive. 


Dr. Wilham Jay Hale, consulting chemist of the Dow 
u J ? had radical ideas on the subject A 

hundred years after the cataclysmic Industrial Revolution 
*e world was experiencing another, equally momentous and 
far-reaching-the Chemical Revolution. 

For ^e new ^ience that would usher in the new age of 
reason he corned a word, which first appeared in orint in 

th ’ ™ “Chemi,” fhe roo" 

blaclt ea;h of wTsle 

H««/;chemurgy.-Ubedefird:a^^^^^^^^^^ 

to S “ “ ‘his WOA 


fa™er’sl"‘“‘”“ the 

tamer s place as a producer of the renewable raw materials 

0 industry without cutting down the numbeis of Xt em 

pVd m mdt^try. And the risks to both farm^^d 

t-or had so oh he more accurately gauged. As Dr. Car- 
ten said, agriculture could aid industry and 



3*2 George YVashington Carver 

industn- could help agriculture solve its economic and social 
problems. Both being basically chemical, they had a natural 
affinity for each other. 

Dr. Hale and the other scientists who had glimpsed the 
vision of the new world of greater comfon for mankind 
were dazzled as Dr. Carver had been when he said in 1925, 
“^Vith all the advancements of science there is still an un- 
limited field for the creative mind; we have only skimmed 
the surface, ^\’hat has been done is nothing to what will be 
done in the years to come.” 

Unanimously they agreed that end products of this union 
between chemistry and industry and agriculture should not 
be called ersatz or counterfeit because they s\ crc not so good 
as the real thing ; usually, as in the case of synthetic rosins in 
paints, nylon for silk, or molded plastics for steel, they were 
an improvement upon what had been considered the real 
thing. 

Henr)^ Ford, “once the farm boy tinkering with me- 
chanics, had become the mechanic who tinkered with 
farms.” He had said that “Man’s substance issues from the 
soil and not from the merchant’s shelves,” and his research 
men were already converting soybeans into new and strange 
products, looking to the time when five pounds of soy would 
replace ttventy-five pounds of steel in an automobile. Eventu- 
ally, each million cars would consume one hundred and 
seventy thousand tons of agricultural products. 

In 1935 a group of farm leaders, scientists, and indus- 
trialists chose Dearborn, Michigan, for their meeting place, 
to discuss agricultural industr)' — a new and tremendously 
important step in the application of science to agriculture. 
The resulting National Farm Chemurgic Council marked 
the official recognition of the beginning of a new era. 

“The first and greatest chemurgist,” is the title Christy 
Borth bestowed on Dr. Carv'er in his book, Pioneers of 
Plenty: “Long before there was a chemurgic council there 
was a man who was famous for his chemurgic counsel. . . . 
\t least a quarter of a century before Dr. Charles H. Herty 



'^To See How the End Will Be’^ 313 

tackled the problem, the scientist in his laboratory made 
paper from Southern pine. . . . Years before a rocklike 
plastic made from wood wastes became a chemurgic prom- 
ise, he made synthetic marble from w'ood shavangs.” 

The director of the council said they had long known of 
and held in high regard Dr. Carver’s creative research into 
the unknown realm of Nature, hence they had invited Dr. 
Carver to address the first Chemurgic Conference. He had 
been unable to accept at that time, but when the invitation 
was repeated in 1937 he did attend. 

Here and there in the gathering of several hundred manu- 
facturers and agriculturists, including the head of the Na- 
tional Grange, could be found representatives of special 
fields an economist and a sociologist, a meteorologist and a 
physicist. And in the hall outside the luncheon room was Dr. 
Carver, waiting until they had finished eating and he could 
deliver his talk “On new methods and principles of farm 
welfare.” 

Henry Ford had already been to call on Dr. Carver in his 
room at the Dearborn Inn. As he poked his head in the door, 
one look was enough to tell these two all that was necessary 
of their mental kinship. Dr. Carver was immediately re- 
minded of his earlier friend Lewis Adams, “who could do 
anything. Here at last was the industrialist with the un- 
limited funds and the vision — who could see the same ends 
and believed in them so profoundly that he was putting them 
into operation; he could make dreams come true — of in- 
dustry based on the utilization of the non-comestible prod- 
ucts of the farm, which would put a greater degree of 
comfort at the disposal of mankind by bringing what had 
been considered luxuries within the price range of millions 
who had previously been excluded. And he sincerely wished 
Negroes to participate in this betterment. 

Mr. Ford had had few close associates in the realm which 
intosted him most, and these were now gone. The names 
of Thomas A. Edison and Luther Burbank and John Bur- 
roughs, whom he had considered the three greatest scientists. 



3 ^ George Washington Carver 

were engraved above his executive office and laboratory 
building, but Carver had taken Edison’s place, in his estima- 
tion, as the greatest living scientist. 

Automatically the devotee of the soybean and the pro- 
tagonist of the peanut dragged their chairs close together 
and settled down earnestly to a conversational communion 
which has continued ever since, either through actual meet- 
ings, correspondence, or unspoken ideas. They talked and 
talked, each finding in the other confirmation of his own 
beliefs and attitudes. 

Perhaps because their habits of thought were so alike, they 
had certain physical habits that were similar, too, such as in 
the matter of eating; they even drank the same amount of 
coffee in their cream. Once, when some newspapermen were 
conducting a joint interview, one of them said, “Mr. Ford, 
we want you next.” He replied, “No. Just ask Dr. Carver. 
He knows about me. I agree with everything he thinks and 
he thinks the same way I do.” 

They planned to see each other at least once a year. On 
his plantation at Ways, Georgia, Ford had rooms prepared 
and always kept ready for the occupancy of Dr. Carver and 
Mr. Curtis whenever they could visit there. But after Dr. 
Carver became too ill to travel much. Ford himself always 
stopped off at Tuskegee on his way between Dearborn and 
Ways to spend some time carrying on that interrupted 
but continuing conversation — often in the discussion of 
fibers. 

He named his school for colored children the George W. 
Car\’er School and built a guest cabin memorial at Green- 
field Village hard by the new dietetics laboratory of Dear- 
born, which Dr. Carver dedicated in 1942. But, more inti- 
mate and hence more significant to these two men who 
valued the historical associations of the past, he presented 
Dr. Carver with a cup and saucer from the set his mother 
had brought to the United States as a bride. 

Dr. Carv^er was distinctly limited in the chemurgic prod- 
ucts he could perfect; he had none of the elaborate equip- 



“To See How the End Will Be” 


315 

ment required for the research into and manufacture of 
even a plastic button, which seems a simple thing. The In- 
stitute had no money to spend in such a fashion. He was still 
restricted to making things with his hands, as he had always 
done. 

When Mr, Curtis first came and confidently said he 
needed three hundred dollars for a microscope. Dr. Carver 
looked at his assistant aghast. He did not in the least be- 
grudge this expenditure from his departmental budget, but 
he had a startled memory of the days when that amount was 
the total the school had to run on, and he himself had to go 
rummaging among trash heaps for equipment. 

Though the aim was the same in both cases, it was a far 
cry from these conditions to the chemurgic program as 
instituted by the Federal Government in 1938. In accord- 
ance with the settled conviction of President Roosevelt and 
Secretary of Agriculture Wallace, that economics needs 
ethics and humanitarianism as fellow travelers, a new Fed- 
eral Bureau of Agricultural Research and Technology \vas 
set up which was to be a clearing house for the industrial 
uses of farm crops. Four experimental regional laboratories 
were built: in Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Illinois, and Cali- 
foima, one in each major farm area, each financed with a 

^lion dollars annually to develop new uses for their local 
farm products. 

Dr. Carver’s primary aim since coming to Tuskegee had 
been to lighten the appalling misery he saiv about him by 
rehevmg the poverty of the South— to substitute for the 
d^troymg one-crop system of cotton the two lifesavers 
which could most easily be fitted into the Southern agrarian 
economy — ^peanuts and sweet potatoes. 

The cultivation of sweet potatoes had increased steadily 
mtil by 1935 sixty-two million bushels were being grouTi. 
tor the manufacture of sweet-potato starch from culls 
some years earlier the Federal Government had opened a 
pilot plant in Alexandria, Virginia, progressing to a large 
one m Laurel, Mississippi, the chemurgic city. Various 



3 i6 George Washington Carver 

bureaus — Standards, Engraving and Printing, and Chem- 
istry and Soils — got together to add another refinement to 
the comfort of Americans. Since licking was still the ac- 
cepted way of applying stamps to letters, they wanted to 
have the mucilage taste better. They extracted the dextrin 
from sweet potatoes and tentative trials were made to see 
whether it could be produced in sufficient quantities to be 
economical. 

The laurel plant produced a starch which Southern tex- 
tile mills could use for sizing cotton fabrics, superior in 
quality and having a production cost sufficiently low to give 
expectations that an important starch industry would de- 
velop in the South. 

Then the war in 1940 extended the live-at-home program 
beyond the farmers to the country as a whole. The West 
Indies and Brazil provided only a small amount of the bitter 
cassava root from which tapioca was made, and its growth 
in the United States was limited to Florida. With the hun- 
dreds of millions of pounds of tapioca-flour importation from 
the Dutch East Indies cut off, the Government started to 
make it from sweet potatoes. 

During the long, difficult period of gestation nothing 
seems to be happening and then, all of a sudden, it does. 
Other things Dr. Carver had advocated during our 1918 
participation in the war began coming to fruition in 1942. 
One newspaper story announced that every decade brought 
a new food discovery, and dehydration, which performed a 
miracle in the field of food preservation, was the current 
one. In words almost identical with those Dr. Carver had 
used twenty-four years earlier the reporter stated that 
dehydrated foods could be flown and shipped overseas and 
their space-saving and weight-saving properties were im- 
pressive. Furthermore, as though the idea had never been 
broached before, one company sent out word through the 
press that it was dehydrating cooked sweet potatoes. “Some- 
thing entirely new on the food horizon is the latest successful 
process for supplying families with year-round tasty yams. 



*‘To See How the End Will Be^^ 317 

. . . Imperfect slices of yams are processed into a powder 
which may be used to make cakes and pies.” 

The lag between laboratory work and ultimate use is 
likely to be at least twenty years. Most people thought “old 
Carver was daffy” when he was writing his bulletins, and 
few paid much attention to them. Very early he had sug- 
gested working peanut shells over the ground to loosen and 
condition the clay soils of the South and give them organic 
matter and a better texture, but for years peanut mills con- 
tinued to burn this valuable material as waste. Not until 
1940 were the shells pulverized, sacked, sold, and advertised 
in seed catalogues, to take the place of peat moss. Actually, 
they were better, because they held more moisture and con- 
tained nitrogen, potash, and phosphate, which were lacking 
in the peat moss formerly imported from Germany. 

The majority of Dr. Carver’s bulletins suffered a like neg- 
lect in the early days. Plenty of oils and fibers were available 
then, and it was easier to import them from countries em- 
ploying coolie labor than it was to compete. But Dr. Carver 
could look ahead and foresee and prepare, and the informa- 
tion contained in his bulletins was later at hand when it was 
needed. Not so long ago three Southern banks reissued one of 
his bulletins without, however, attaching his name to the 
publication or in any way acknowledging his authorship. 

However, he was encouraged by the small things that 
showed production was beginning to catch up, and with the 
general recognition of the things themselves. “I’m glad to 
see progress is being made — that the effort has not been 
entirely lost. Though it would have been more encouraging 

if^ any except the chemurgic people had been aware of his 
pioneer labors. 

From the sweet potato Dr. Carver had produced one hun- 
dred and eighteen products. But it was less spectacular than 
the peanut because it was less versatile — the peanut con- 
tamed oil. From the peanut, therefore, he was able to pro- 
duce three hundred products. 

He was not alone in seeing the value of these two crops, 



3 i8 George Washington Carver 

and an exact measure of responsibility for their enormous 
increase cannot be apportioned, but he was the individual 
who focused attention upon them. Of late years, when he 
talked in Southern towns, the streets leading to the lecture 
halls were blocked, and when he made a nine-day tour of 
Texas the State Legislature adjourned to hear him. 

He would be quite content to share honors with the boll 
weevil, which still cost sixty million dollars annually. For 
many years soapbox politicians had beat the air over the 
question of better roads and pointed to the holes into which 
you could drop a cow. When the Ford car was produced, 
which made travel by automobile almost universal, the 
oratory was no longer needed; the good roads appeared by 
magic. In a similar fashion the boU weevil, a little thing the 
size of a fly, by increasing the hazards of cotton growing, 
accomplished what a century of talk could not have achieved 
in diverting numbers of farmers to the planting of peanuts. 
They could make money from peanuts as they never could 
from cotton. 

The peanut had not even been recognized as a crop in 
1896; now it was among the leading six in the entire United 
States. Peanuts and soybeans were the only two crops which 
had increased in value while the total farm income was 
decreasing. 

By 1938 the peanut could no longer be described as 
“lowly” ; it accounted for more than $200,000,000 worth of 
business. In November of that year, “Whereas the peanut is 
one of Alabama’s chief products,” the governor of Alabama 
proclaimed a peanut week. For three days a festival was 
held, complete with floats and bands, and Dr. Carver was 
escorted to the parade by a cordon of motorcycle policemen. 
By 1940 it was the second Southern cash crop after cotton; 
and five million acres were allotted for 1942* 

Peanut-processing companies had prospered greatiy, 
though few of Dr. Carver’s products had actually been com- 
mercialized. Yet a third local company was organized by 
some of the same citizens of the town of Tuskegee as had 



"To See How the End Will Be” 


319 

started the first two. One per cent of the gross proceeds 
were to go to the Carver Foundation, since he would not 
accept anything personally. Most important of the products 
of the Carvoline Company, which also manufactured cos- 
metics, salad oil, and rubbing oil based on Dr. Carver’s 
formulas, was peanut flour. 

Peanut flour contained more than four times as much 
protein and eight times as much fat as wheat flour. Its high 
alkalinity made it valuable in maintaining body balance, 
and its low carbohydrate content, even less than soybean 
flour, gave it a place in diabetic diets. An excellent source of 
vitamin Bi, peanut flour was recommended by the Georgia 
State Health Department as a pellagra preventive. 

As Dr. Carver watched the ideas he had tended and 
nourished for so long beginning to flower one by one he con- 
tinued unremittingly to walk in the early morning and at 
sunset and gather his mycological specimens and dispatch 
them to Washington to the Division of Mycology and Disease 
Survey, the duty of which was to collect, study, identify, and 
work out the best methods for combating disease. 

His same unique contributions continued to appear in the 
Plant Disease Reporter, issued by the Bureau of Plant In- 
dustry as a service to pathologists throughout the United 
States. "Dr. George W. Carver of the Tuskegee Institute in 
Alabama sent a specimen of Pandanus javanicus variegatus 
attacked by Diplodia natalansis. He writes that one large 
plant, with stalks two and a half inches in diameter, was 
killed by the fungus. The Survey has no other record of the 
fungus on Pandanus” 

Dr. Paul R. Miller of the Survey has recently said: "I 
have known Dr. Carver well for over ten years and consider 
him a rarely gifted scientist and mycologist. His contribu- 
tions have been countless. His methods of experimentation 
have not always been orthodox, but his innate ability and 
tireless efforts have far overshadowed any failure to conform 
to conventional procedure. His ability as a collector of rare 
fungi is almost uncanny. I have been with him on collecting 



320 George Washington Carver 

trips when half of the specimens found would be the first 
record of occurrence in the state. This is probably explained 
by the fact that Dr. Car\’er is a keen student of nature. 
Knowing the proper habitat of such fungi, it is easy for him 
to locate them. He not only knows botany but geology, soils, 
etc.” 

In the realm of uncorrupted science, national and racial 
and color bars are down; all are accepted on the basis of 
accomplishment. Dr. Car\cr was so accepted when, on 
August I. 19 ’,3, in recognition of his many years of brilliant 
mxcological discos eries. he \s as appointed, as Collaborator 
in the Sur\e) . to the United States Department of Agricul- 
ture. 



CHAPTER XXIII 


There Is a Balm in Gilead!^ 


Th. YEAR 1936-37 was remembered as a special 
one at Tuskegee, dedicated to honoring Dr. Carver and 
celebrating the fortieth anniversary of his arrival from the 
West. Those forty years had seen changes at the Institute 
which the most daring prophet would not at the time have 
ventured to predict. Physically it had grown from a few 
handmade, faulty buildings surrounded by dreariness to 
more than a hundred, distinctive in their stateliness and 
dignity, set in a great expanse of thirty-five hundred acres 
of park and verdant farm land. But it was much more than 
an institution devoted to the education of its thirty-five 
hundred students ; it had become a power in the agricultural 
South and an enlightening influence in the social structure 
of America. 

Booker T. Washington had set the course, and under the 
guidance of Dr. Moton, a brilliant educator, the academic 
standards had risen until it had become duly accredited with 
a college rating. As he could say with justifiable pride, more 
and more were coming — “a host of youths, no longer tram- 
meled as their forefathers, these of a younger generation are 
revealing, in their unabased accomplishments, those latent 
capacities, hitherto repressed, that must inevitably win for 
them and their people ungrudging access to the larger op- 
portunities of unbounded America and ungrudging place in 
the family of races and nations.” 

After twenty years of devoted service Dr. Moton’s health 
had failed. He had retired in 1935, leaving the captaincy to 
one of the ablest of the younger generation of whom he had 



322 George Washington Carver 

spoken— Dr. Frederick D. Patterson, who had come from 
Cornell University only a short time before to teach bacteri- 
ology and veterinary science. 

Dr. Moton once said of Dr. Carver, “He has been an in- 
spiration as a teacher and an exemplification in his own 
person of the possibilities of the race. Thousands will be his 
debtor in race understanding who will never know his name.” 

Dr. Carv^er had helped change the pattern of Southern 
agriculture. But by the forde of his character, no less than 
by his achievements, he had performed that far more diffi- 
cult and subtle act, of enrolling thousands under the banner 
of good will. 

Dr. Carver has been called the greatest single force since 
the turn of the century in creating racial understanding. 
Undoubtedly he shared this honor with Booker T. Washing- 
ton, but his greater life span enabled him to advance the 
understanding by many degrees. Negro artists, too, have 
helped enormously to better relations, but a more compre- 
hensive fraternity exists among the arts than in most other 
walks of life, and a great singer will be listened to by all who 
love music. 

Music was, as it had always been, a vital part of life at 
Tuskegee. William L. Dawson, a Tuskegee graduate, had 
perfected his gifts and returned to the Institute as musical 
director. Like an orchestra leader, with a meticulous and 
sympathetic touch he played upon the untrained voices of 
the choir, developing rich harmonies from the melodic 
strains of the religious folk music of the bottom churches 
where the students had their origin, and they responded, as 
he wished, ^vith every shade of emotional intensity. Al- 
though the members shifted year by year with graduates 
leaving and newcomers replacing them, they always main- 
tained the same high level. 

As the songs of travail and faith which are knowTi 
throughout the world by the name of spirituals have been 
the gift of Negroes who have suffered but never ceased to 
hope, so the chancel windows in the Institute chapel were 



*^There Is a Balm in Gilead” 


323 

the gift of hundreds of striving Negroes, contributing their 
little sums towards this glorious symphony of color, a sym- 
bolic record in stained glass of the progress of the race — 
toiling out of slavery down in Egypt’s land, crossing the 
rolling Jordan, fighting the battle of Jericho till the walls 
came tumbling down, climbing Jacob’s ladder, ever higher, 
rising in a superb crescendo toward the star in the east, till 
they shouted all over God’s Heaven. The windows were ex- 
ecuted in 1932 in the Lamb Studios of New Jersey, but had 
been conceived in the hearts of the Negroes of the deep 
South who were singing all the way out of slavery until they 
should become an undeniable part of the brotherhood of 
man. 

Commencement in June of 1937 marked the climax of 
Dr. Car\^er’s commemorative year. The singing choir stood 
under these singing windows, giving voice most appropri- 
ately to the poem Mr. Dawson had set to music — Louise 
Imogen Guiney’s “Out in the Fields with God,” “Where ill 
thoughts die and good are bom,” and where Dr. Carver had 
spent a large share of his life. 

Throughout the year small contributions had been pour- 
ing in, chiefly in dollar bills with a smattering of fives and 
tens, until two thousand dollars of such subscriptions had 
been raised to pay for a bronze bust, fashioned by Steffen 
Wolfgang George Thomas of Atlanta. There would never 
have been any bust had Dr. Carver been consulted. He did 
not by any means feel he was ready for one, and he did not 
want a monument anyhow. But there it was, and at the 
unveiling, June 2, 1937, he appeared reluctantly. He seemed 
less tall than when he had arrived in Tuskegee, his head 
thrust turtle fashion from his bent shoulders, but he was 
wearing the same suit in which he had graduated from 
Ames, and the buttonhole, as it had then, flaunted a flower. 

The astute young Mr. Curtis detected a means of turning 
the festive occasion to a practical purpose. Dr. Carver’s ex- 
hibit of fibers, paints, stains, and peanut and sweet-potato 
products had traveled widely and been seeil by hundreds of 



324 George Washington Carver 

thousands of people, but when they were at home they stayed 
shut up in the agricultural building, where only an occa- 
sional guest and a few students were admitted. Mr. Curtis 
believed they should be on permanent view to all. 

He therefore gathered some together, added the stuffed 
fowl and geological specimens, spread them out in a spacious 
upstairs room in the new hbrary, and took up his stand there 
to explain them to the many visitors who had come for the 
ceremonies. The visitors were impressed, including the 
trustees, few of whom had ever seen this visual record of a 
lifetime’s achievement; they agreed that the exhibit should 
be permanent. 

The Institute laundry dated from 1914 before the school 
had attained its present proportions. It was a graceful, com- 
pact, one-stor>' building of red brick with a white portico, on 
the main road between the Carnegie Music Hall and the 
guest hall. It now seemed out of place to have a laundry thus 
prominently situated, and the tubs and mangles had been 
relegated to the eastern edge of the campus, back by the 
powerhouse. Dr. Patterson suggested to the other trustees 
that the location and size of the building made it eminently 
suitable to house Dr. Carver’s collection, and the following 
spring at the annual Founder’s Day meeting they approved 
the George Washington Carver Museum. 

The Museum, as it turned out, was probably the means of 
saving Dr. Carver’s life. In the midst of his plans, pernicious 
anemia sent him to the hospital, abandoning the rooms in 
Rockefeller Hall which had been his private sanctuary for 
thirty-five years. The red blood corpuscles had diminished 
to an almost impossibly low number, and for several months 
an overtaxed heart threatened momentarily to stop. 

In the matter of eating, so important in anemia, he was a 
difficult patient. The sight and smell of food overcame him. 
He was physically unable to alter his owm deeply ingrained 
habits to those which, he was assured over and over, medical 
practice had proved would aid his recovery. He loathed 
orange juice and lemon juice and vanilla, all of which were 



“There Is a Balm in Gilead” 


325 

employed to mask the taste of noxious medicines ; a whiff of 
any of them destroyed his appetite utterly. Apropos of the 
dietician he said with a wry smile, “Fm supposed to adjust 
to her whims, but I have not tried very strenuously, and I 
don’t think I shall.” 

But the Museum was the only thing of its kind that had 
ever been projected; it must be carried through, and only he 
could do it. Threads must be tied, loose ends caught up. He 
had toiled so exclusively alone that nobody else could know 
the relative significance of objects scattered among his ef- 
fects which had an important meaning for him. Much of 
his work was in the pattern stage, but it must be a com- 
pleted pattern from which could be fashioned the perfected 
structure. Had he not felt acutely that there ^vas a master 
scheme, and that he could not stop until the design was fin- 
ished, he would not have made the necessary effort to live. 

Even when he was in the hospital and practically help- 
less, he could not ring a bell or push a button for attention. 
He had always waited on himself and simply could not ad- 
just to seivdce. Though he was supposedly inactive, he would 
lie propped up in bed with his heart thumping heavily but 
with his jackknife open, whittling out some idea or other. 
He had never been as concerned with how long he was going 
to live as with how much he could do while he was li\'ing. 

AVhen the red corpuscles began to put in a feeble appear- 
ance, he was at last permitted to leave the safeguards of the 
hospital, and was moved into a separate suite of rooms in the 
Institute guest hall. There he would have the matron within 
reach, though he never was kno\NTi to call on her. Henry 
Ford had a private elevator installed which ^\ ould spare him 
the tax of climbing the nineteen steep stairs, and he was only 
a few steps from the Museum in which were his new office 
and laboratory and proving plant, wEere he tested recipes on 
wood, coal, gas, and electric stoves and a fircless cooker, 
usmg iron pots whenever possible. A small greenhouse had 
been built on at the back, accessible only through his private 
rooms, to hold his amaryllis and a few experimental plants. 



3^6 George Washington Carver 

Heterogeneous was a favorite word of Dr. Carver’s be- 
cause he so disliked heterogeneity in thinking. But in a re- 
markably short time after he was installed in the Museum, 
the adjective might have applied to his rooms. When the 
chaos of paper, rocks, grain, soil, and dried plants became 
too great and his office so stuffed he could not move around 
in it, he cleaned house. This consisted of gathering up a huge 
bundle and lugging it into his laboratory. When that was 
overflo\ving, he carried it into the proving room and, when 
that became impossible, he threw it out in the trash barrel, 
Then he ^vas in despair, because that very day he was sure 
to want something he had just disposed of. 

The deprivation Dr. Carver felt most keenly was the loss 
of his dawn and sunset walks, and he wondered wistfully 
^vhether he would ever be able to get as far as the new school 
greenhouse v’hich had recently been built ; he had never seen 
its construction or its equipment or flowers. 

With inward protestations he continued dutifully to swal- 
low iron and liver pills by the hundred. He was not a heavy 
eater, but he was as finicky as ever, and he did like something 
he could get his teeth into. They said there was a whole ox 
in four tablets of beef extract; w'ell, it could stay there as 
far as he was concerned. You could not build a good feeling 
on hunger. You could not nourish on wind and water, and 
bees’ knees and gnats’ heels did not constitute a meal. He 
liked staple foods, but well prepared. Once when what he 
called a foul fowl was brought in to him he remarked that 
you could not season a chicken by pouring a sauce on it any 
more than you could pour oh over clay and expect it to mix. 
Or if the tray came in with the toast too well done he would 
send it back with a note : “No charcoal this morning. If I 
needed it the doctor would prescribe.” 

Finally he rebelled openly against pills. You must either 
take heed of the Bible, said he, or, if you thought it all bosh, 
throw it all a\vay. He chose to take heed, and the Voice had 
said distinctly to Isaiah, “All flesh is grass and all the good- 
liness thereof is as the flower of the field.” 



“There Is a Balm in Gilead” 327 

In the few feet Dr. Carver covered between his own door- 
way and the Museum were wild vegetables enough to feed a 
family. He started to gather and prepare these himself and 
threw the years away as fast as he threw the pills away. He 
began to e.xtend his walks further and further afield and con- 
sidered he had completely vindicated his o\vn method of 
treatment \\hen he was able to climb a fence going across 
lots to the new greenhouse. 

Ml his life Dr. Car\’er had been doing essentially one 
thing. “Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the 
crannies.” He had plucked and plucked and here in the Mu- 
seum \vas the culmination of his effort — the inseparable 
thought-and-act life of one individual on parade to consti- 
tute an enduring record which would remain w-hen the 
smoke and the din and the destruction had cleared away: 
the skeleton of Betsy, one of the first yoke of oxen with which 
the first fields of the Experiment Station had been plowed 
and planted; nvo-foot glass jars of the first fruits of those 
fields: mammoth vegetables looking as fresh as when he had 
sealed them forty years before; samples of soils in their bam- 
boo containers; cold-water paints on rough pine boards; 
stains; wallpaper designs; vegetable dyes; wallboard; Cer- 
cospora on leaves and plants; edible wild vegetables; feather 
and bead and mica ornaments; fibers; mats and rugs; hun- 
dreds of lace patterns; vases of native clay; the incompara- 
ble blue powder in a pharmacist’s jar; samples of cotton and 
cotton bricks; a fair showing of the seventy-five pecan 
products; one hundred and eighteen sweet-potato products 
and a representative group of the three hundred peanut 
products. 

The Museum was designed to be not merely a record of the 
past, but a means of educating for the future, an encyclo- 
pedia of Southern potentialities. Dr. Caix’er had often said 
that you had only to go out in the back yard to find the solu- 
tion to the Southern problems. For thirty years specialists in 
differmg lines had come asking what to do in this case, what 
to do m that one. Now if they wanted information on ores 



328 George Washington Carver 

here it was gathered together under glass in one volume, as it 
were; if they wanted to know something about fibers or 
foods, these also were readily available. Dr. Carver had 
always preferred to be called an “educator,” rather than be 
tagged with any of the sciences he practiced; botany, chem- 
istry, geology, and all the others were merely several means 
toward an end. In the Muserun he was able to crystallize his 
group theory of education ; by decreasing the extent he was 
increasing the intent. 

As a representation of this most versa*tile man, the Museum 
still lacked one of his essential aspects. This was rounded out 
when a space \vas partitioned off in which were hung thirty- 
six of his paintings, in frames of bare wood with no stain, no 
varnish, no gilt. 

The Museum had its annoyances, minor but incessant, 
which interfered with his peace of mind. He had already 
been sufficiently troubled by the curious who stood with their 
faces against the glass, just to see what he looked hke, and 
by the intolerable nuisance of souvenir hunters who ripped 
the labels off the exhibits or stole anything which had his 
name on it. Comments upon his clothes, coming from people 
with a not-too-friendly attitude, increasingly exasperated 
him as an example of lack of perspective and confusion of 
important things with the totally unimportant. Time was 
growing short and the laggards in comprehension were so 
far behind. 

A reporter from one of the national weeklies who came 
to the opening of the gallery in 1941 called the “Black 
Leonardo” a toothless old man. “Which,” said Dr. Carver, 
“is nonsense. It was a great pity he didn’t ask, then he would 
not have made that egregious error. If he had taken the 
trouble to inquire I could have proved I am not toothless. I 
had my teeth right in my pocket all the time.” 

With the condescension which of later days had injected a 
certain amount of acerbity into Dr. Carver’s tone, the re- 
porter had also referred to his patched apron. Here, smd 
Dr Carver, “it is. A little patch no bigger than a dollar. But 



^‘There Is a Balm in Gilead” 329 

he couldn’t see the paintings for the patch.” Why concen- 
trate on that? What difference did it make? What did it 
have to do with art? And he added, with a note of despair 
over the obtuseness of humanity in general, “You would 
think from the way they pressed against the railings that pic- 
tures were made to smell, instead of to look at.” 

The Museum was regarded by Mr. Curtis as a monument 
e\ddencing the respect and reverence due a great man. It 
would be easy to let it solidify, but in that case it would be 
no more vital than a statue. It would negate the guiding 
principle of Dr. Carver’s life, which was to go on without 
cessation and find out more and more attributes of more and 
more objects and put them to use. 

If, on the other hand, it were a live and growing thing, 
the more fitting a monument it would be to a man whose 
own endeavors had never become static. It must be elastic 
and independent as Dr. Carver had been, ready to meet 
what needs would inevitably continue to arise, dedicated to 
the solution of practieal problems — not in pure, but applied, 
research. 

Many of the things Dr. Carver had started had great pos- 
sibilities but remained still in the test-tube stage because of 
insufficient equipment and limited personnel. These alone 
would be sufficient to keep a staff busy for some time to come. 
In the chemurgic adaptation of farm products to industry 
the sciences could not be isolated. Chemistry, botany, bac- 
teriology, entomology, physics, and soil chemistry were all 
tied up together; the protein or carbohydrate composition 
of a plant could be altered by changing the composition of 
the soil through fertilizers. Specialists in all these fields were 
needed to carry on the work along lines laid dowTi by him, 
before the pilot plant stage and final industrialization could 
be reached. 

Mr. Curtis possessed the virtue of altruism of the same sort 
as Dr. Carver’s or they would not have been so compatible, 
and what he had of this quality within himself was enhanced 
by association. To his mind, progress could not properly be 



330 George Washington Carver 

called progress unless others besides himself were furnished 
the opportunity for research and the opportunity to contrib- 
ute to the scientific knowledge of the world. 

Almost no Negroes had any backlog of money for vaca- 
tion purposes or even to see them through the period of edu- 
cation without resorting to such menial and small-paying 
jobs as Pullman porters or waiters or delivery “boys.” And 
once they had graduated only two fields were open — teach- 
ing and government employ — both of which were restricted 
in the numbers they could accommodate. 

At the present time the Negro could furnish, as always, 
the labor for science, but could make small use of it for his 
own advancement. Negro chemists produced little except a 
few cosmetics and patent medicines. Over the big commer- 
cial research laboratories was an unwritten sign in letters 
which only Negroes could read, “Do Not Enter.” Sometimes 
entrance was barred by law, but more often by the white 
worker’s prejudice or fear of a threat to his own job. 

A Negro youth might therefore become highly proficient 
in his scientific field while he was at school but, even with 
diploma in hand, there was no place he could go to put his 
theoretical knowledge into practical effect. Thus the incen- 
tive to study in the sciences was removed because it would 
lead to nothing; he could not even make a li\dng at it, and 
an incalculable amount of talent, perhaps genius, was being 
wasted. 

From all these considerations there naturally arose the 
idea of making the Carver laboratory a research center for 
promising young Negroes. Using as its nucleus the remaining 
thirty-three thousand dollars of Dr. Carver, rescued from the 
depression debacle, the machinery for bringing about this 
devoutly wished consummation was set up in 1940 and 
called the George Washington Carver Foundation. 

As for Dr. Carver himself, he was still seeking, still learn- 
ing, though he had long since passed such landmarks as his 
several honorary doctorates. He carried his honors mod- 
estly. Each tribute came to him unasked, and often he was 




1 he Ch*()rt;r \\ ci^hiii^toii Ciarvrr Mnsriini 





“There Is a Balm in Gilead’^ 331 

naively unaware of its full implication. Because of a per* 
sonal shrinking from publicity, he had never sought fame in 
any form, perhaps not enough for the good of his work. He 
made the least possible effort to attract attention, and 
strangers who saw him merely as an individual di\’orccd 
from his name looked upon him as an utterly insignificant 
person. Whether the marks of renown came from a comic 
strip based on his life, or an invitation to address the New 
York Herald Tribune Forum in the Waldorf-Astoria on the 
subject of “Chemistry and Peace,” he took them all in his 
stride. 

This last he was fortunately able to combine in one trip 
with his acceptance of the Roosevelt Medal for distinguished 
service in the field of science, in 1939’ He was introduced to 
the two hundred dinner guests in Theodore Roosevelt’s New 
York home with these words : “I have the honor to present 
not a man only, but a life, transfused with passion for the 
enlarging and enriching of the living of his fellowman . . . 
a liberator to men of the white race as well as the black; a 
bridge from one race to the other, on which men of good 
will may learn of each other and rejoice together in the op- 
portumties and the potentialities of their common country.” 
With one accord the guests rose to their feet as he received 
the medal and delivered his simple speech. 

Distinctions were piling up like a rolling snowball. They 
differed widely in prestige, but he accepted them graciously 
— and then went back to work again. 

Eighteen schools had been named for Dr. Car\^er and, 
wonderful to relate, a Southern white child. Equally remark- 
able was the resolution of the United Daughters of the Con- 
federacy extolling him. The Catholic Conference of the 
South, meeting in Birmingham, disregarded creed in favor 
of religion and made him the first recipient of its annual 
award for outstanding service to the welfare of the South. 
The Variety Clubs of America offered its Humanitarian 
Award, and the Progressive Farmer, a leading Southern 
agricultural magazine, named him the Man of the Year 



332 George Washington Carver 

In 1941 Dr. Carver received an invitation from President 
Alan Valentine of the University of Rochester to be present 
at the Commencement exercises to receive an honorary de- 
gree of Doctor of Science. He had also been asked to deliver, 
on almost the same date, the baccalaureate address at his 
old college Simpson. Thus the years were joined between 
that place which had first admitted him to education and 
that which had been the home of Frederick Douglass and a 
haven of refuge to slaves on their way to freedom across the 
Canadian border. 

His health would not permit both trips. He could travel 
as far as Iowa, but not so far as New York. Accordingly, the 
University of Rochester, feeling that it would be honoring 
itself in honoring Dr. Carver, took an unprecedented step. 
Dr. Valentine flew down to Tuskegee and a special convoca- 
tion was held. His citation poignantly summarized Dr. 
Carver’s life : “Scientist, educator, benefactor of your people 
and America. . . . True to the American tradition, you 
made ever)' sacrifice to obtain the best education. . . . Rec- 
ognition came slowly in the world of white men but, when 
it came, you neither scorned it nor were captivated by it. 
. . . Because you have opened new doors of opportunity to 
those Americans who happen to be Negroes; because you 
ha\’e once again demonstrated that in human ability there 
is no color line ; because you have helped thousands of men 
acquire new confidence ... I confer upon you the degree 
of Doctor of Science, honoris causa, in recognition whereof 
I hand you this diploma and ask that the hood of that de- 
gree, bearing the color of the university, be placed on your 
shoulders.” 

In Januar)' 1942 Dr. Carver received an award from the 
Honorar)' Birthday Committee of the Thomas A. Edison 
Foundation for the Advancement of Science and Educa- 
tion which acknowledged only “a few outstanding Ameri- 
cans in the fields of Science, Art, Medicine, and Education, 
who have made some real contribution to human welfare.” 
The next month the Executive Council of the honorary fra- 



“There Is a Balm in Gilead’* 333 

temity, Kappa Delta Pi, announced his election to member- 
ship in the Laureate Chapter. 

Illness in 1938 had prevented Dr. Carver from going back 
to Diamond, Missouri, the place where he was bom, to join 
the reunion of the Carver family, his one-time masters, at 
which he would have been most cordially welcome. Four 
j^ears later, by order of the governor of the state, markers 
were put up by the Missouri Highway Commission direct- 
ing travelers to the “Birthplace of George Washington 
Carver, Famous Negro Scientist.” The white boys and girls 
with whom he had played as a child were by then very old 
men and women, but all who could remember the little 
things he said and did were proud of “our George.” 

These highway markers have a far-reaching symbolism. 
In the life span of one man millions of his race who could 
not read the printed wayside signs, stating how many miles 
it was to this place or that, can read now, and they know 
well how far they still must travel and how beset with obsta- 
cles the path will be. Seven-league boots were given Dr. 
Carver, and he covered the distance in one allegorical step, 
but the others are following swiftly after him. 



EPILOGUE 


Coming for to Carry Me Home** 


It was such a little step Dr. Carver had still to 
take out of the lonesome valley into the Heaven for which 
he had prepared himself, “Where Sabbaths Have No End.” 

He wanted to see this book published, and to read the 
record — a record of which he himself did not realize the full 
magnitude. When we began work on it more than three years 
ago, it had not seemed important to him. Being chiefly con- 
cerned with the day-to-day job which resulted in service to 
others, he had given no thought to the marks of fame which 
might result. He had not even troubled previously to correct 
the “fairy tales,” as he called them, written by people who 
could not know the facts of his life, because he had never 
explained himself. And it was not easy for him to remember 
painful things long buried. But at last it became clear to 
him that if these matters were put down accurately and 
truthfully, with first things first and all in its proper propor- 
tion, he would be rendering yet smother service which it was 
in his power to make — offering a signpost guiding the way 
toward a better life for the young of all races. 

Dr. Carver wanted to hold this book in his hand, but he 
could not wait for it. He was very tired, and it was high time 
he went to rest. As twilight fell on the evening of January 5, 
1943, he died, and was buried beside his dear friend, Booker 
T. Washington. The text of the chaplain of Tuskegee In- 
stitute was, “For God so loved the world.” Among the sons 
and leaders in the cause of humanity, George Washington 
Carver had taken his rightful place. 

I am deeply grateful for the privilege of having known 

334 



'‘Coming for to Carry Me Ho 7 ne” 335 

Dr. Carver through the daily communication we had over 
many months. As we talked together and as I read through 
his scrapbooks, each day brought stronger confirmation of 
his true greatness. His sw^eetness and humor, his w-isdom and 
understanding will be sadly missed by all of us, at 7'uskcgcc 
and in the larger world, w'ho were e\ cr associated w'ith him. 
We could work better with him at our side. 

And I am deeply sensible of the honor of being the instru- 
ment through which his life has been recorded. If this book 
does anything to hold up a mirror and thereby help make 
others of his race better understood by white men w ho seldom 
look beyond the color of their skins to the living human be- 
ing, our joint purpose w'ill have been achieved, and George 
Washington Carver can rest in peace. 



flLLOHfl lOBflL LIBRARY 


4402 



Bibliography 


Pioneers of Plenty 

Black Reconstruction 

American Negroes, a Handbook 

Chemistry Triumphant 

The Farm Ghemurgic 

The Collapse of Cotton Tenancy 

The Wasted Land 

The Books of American Negro Spirituals 
The Negro in the New World 
The Story of My Life 

Sharecroppers All 

Aggrey of Africa 

Frederick Douglass 

My Larger Education 

Up from Slavery 

The Negro Year Book (i937“38) 

Twelve Million Black Voices 
Negro Scientist Shows ‘‘Way Out* ’ 


Christy Borth 
W. E, B. DuBois 
Edwin R. Embree 
William /. Hale 
William /. Hale 
C. Johnson 
Gerald W. Johnson 
Ed. /. Weldon Johnson 
Sir Harry Johnston 
Sir Harry Johnston 
(Arthur F. Raper 
\lra De A. Reid 
Edwin W. Smith 
Booker T. Washington 
Booker T. Washington 
Booker T. Washington 
Ed. Monroe N. Work 
Richard Wright 
Osburn Zuber 



inaex 


Achimoto University College (Gold 
Coast Colony), 17 1 
Adams, Lewis, 99, 102, 103, 105, 116, 

170. 313 

Addams, Jane, 235 
Adler, Alfred, 128 
Afghanistan, 183 

Africa, 3, 124, 158, 171, 176, 224. 

245, 248, 279 
Aggrey, J. E, Kwegyir, 171 
Agricultural Adjustment Agency, 304 
Agricultural Experiment Station (la.), 
73 , 89, 90, 95 

Agricultural Experiment Station 
(Tuskegee), 134, 135, 154-63, 166, 

179, 213-14, 219. 327 

Agricultural Society (England), 80 
Agricultural Society (la.), 98 
Alabama, 98, 99, loi, 105, 118, 119, 
122, 125, 127, 130, 133, 135, 172, 
174, 186, 191, 200, 206, 207, 231, 
237, 250, 269, 270, 296, 302, 318 
Alabama Constitution of 1875, 
Alabama Hall (Tuskegee Institute), 
109, 121, 142 

Alabama Polytechnic Institute (Au- 
burn), 134, 136 
Alabama State Exposition, 232 
Alabama State Legislature, 103, no, 

134-5, 155, 234 

Albania, 187 

Alcorn Agricultural and Mechanical 
College, 95, 97 
Alcott, Louisa M., 21 
Alexandria (Va.), 315 
Amaryllis, 88, 90, 98, 204, 325 
American Missionary Association, 104 
American Revolution, 236 
Ames (la.). See Iowa State College of 
Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, 71, 
72, 74, 86-7, 89, 93, 137, 145, 150, 
196, 221, 275, 298, 301, 323 
Ames Intelligencer, 98 
Animal husbandry, 96, 142-5, 159, 
. 168 173, 178, 199 
Antioch College, 296 
Arkansas, 2, 4 

Armstrong, General Samuel Chapman, 
104, 1 12 

Art Institute of Chicago, 89, 93 
Ashby, 83-4 

Atlanta (Ga.), 94, 102, ng, 168, 212, 
250, 261, 277, 323 
Atlanta Constitution, 115, 293 


Atlanta Cotton States and Interna* 
tional Exposition, 94, 114, 234 
Atlanta University, 104 
Attucks, Crispus, 236 
Auburn (Ala.), 134 
Aurora (Knoxville, Tenn.), 204 
Australia, 158, 245 

Baker, Henry C., 173-4 
Baltimore (Md.), 294 
Baltimore Sun, 265 
Barkley, Congressman Albcn W., 259 
Baynham Farm, 13, 193 
Baynham, Fred, 27 
Beardshear, President W. M. (Iowa 
State College), 73, 95 
Beeler (Kan.), 45, 49, 50, 53 
Beeler, Della, 44-5 
Beeler, Frank, 45, 50, 52 
Beeler, John, 44-5 
Beeler, Mrs. John, 44-5 
Belgian Congo, 229 
Bentley, 4 
Bentonite, 231 
Berea College (Ky.), 188 
“Big Hungry,” 105, 122 
Bilbo, Senator Theodore G., 273 
Birmingham (Ala.), 234, 331 
Birmingham Reporter, 293 
Blue Ridge Assembly, 273 
Boll weevil, 222-3, 225, 302, 318 
Borth, Christy, 312 
Boston Conservatory of Music, 76 
Botany, 75, 77, 79, 89, 90, 121, 150-3, 
191, 214-17, 219, 227, 248-9, 268, 
279, 291, 304, 320, 328, 329 
Branum, Felix, 109-10 
Brazil, 316 

Brickm^ing, 108-9, tl6, 120, 165, 
168 

Brooks, A. L., 103 
Brown, Rev. Duncan, D.D., 43 
Brown University, 140 
Budd, Etta M., 63-72, 74, 86 
Budd, J. L, 71, 86, 90, 96 
Bulletins, 90, 95, 154, 158, 16 1, 174, 
• 79 , 199, 209,224,243,317,318 
Burbank, Luther, 287, 313 
Bureau of Agriculturi Research and 
Technology, 315 

Bureau of Chemistry and Soils, 316 
Bureau of Engraving and Printing, 
316 

Bureau of Plant Industry. <119 



Index 


338 

Bureau of Standards, 316 
Burroughs, John, 313 
Butler Chapel, 105 

California, 315 

Cambridge, University of, 249 
Campbell, George, 99, 103, 104, 109, 
no, 170 

Campbell, Thomas M., 148, 186 
Canot, Captain Theodore, 124 
Carew, Congressman John F., 258 
Carnegie, Andrew, 17 1 
Carnegie Institute, 219 
Carnegie Library (Tuskegee Insti- 
tute), 171, 197 

Carney, Sergeant William, 236 
Car\*er family, 6, 20, 43, 333 
Carv'er hybrid (cotton), 158 
Car\^er, James, i, 6, 7, 9, 10, 13, 14, 
15-16, 18, 26, 30, 42-3 
Carx^er, Moses, 2-4, 6-21, 193 
Carver Paint Company, 260 
Carver Products Company, 260 
Carver, Susan, 3-12, 21, 144, 193 
Carvoline Company, 319 
Catholic Conference of the South, 331 
Cecil Hotel (Atlanta, Ga.), 261 
Cedar Rapids (la.), 87 
Ceylon (India), 267 
Chapel (Tuskegee Institute), 122, 
164-5, 168, 177, 199, 212, 322 
Charleston (N.C.), 123 
Chehaw (Ala.), 102, 118, 138, 191, 
282 

Chemistr>’, 75, 77 , 80, 134, 161, 182, 
183-5, 199, 202, 219, 227, 247, 
262, 265-8, 310-12, 328, 330, 331 
Chemurgx', 243, 310-17, 329 
Chenault, Dr. John W., 300 
Chicago Academy of Arts. See Art 
Institute of Chicago 
China, 157, 187, 245, 251 
Cholera (hog), 80, 175, *99 
Civil War, 1-4, 13, 102, 104, 115, 126, 
128, 170, 217, 236, 252, 288, 290, 
303 

Clay, 108, 1 1 8, 1 19, 155, *81-5, 194, 
231-2, 261, 308-9, 317, 327 
Cleveland, President Grover. See Presi- 
dent Grover Cleveland 
Coal, 159, 231, 3*0 
Coffee County (Ala.), 224 
Colombo Daily News (Ceylon), 267 
Columbus (Ga.), 286, 288, 293, 352 
Constitution of the United States 
(14th and 15th Amendments), 129 
Coolidge, President Calvin. See Presi- 
dent Calvin Coolidge 
Copper, 231 

Cornell Countryman, The, 199 
Cornell University, 148, 306, 322 
Cotton, 12, 100, 105, 1 15, * *9, *23-7* 
133, *38, *57-^, *82, 165, 168, 169, 
172, 173, *78, *79, 222-5, 237, 242, 
301-3, 3 **, 3 * 5 , 3 * 8 , 327 
Cottonseed oil, 298, 300, 310 


Cowpea, 155, 157, 16 1, 162, 164, 223, 
228 

Creelman, James, 115 
Creosote, 264 

Cross-fertilization of plants, 88, 90, 
92, 98, 158, 204 
Cuba, 186, 189 
Cullen, Countee, 132 
CxiTTy, J. L. M., 120 
Curtis, Austin W., Jr,, 187, 306-10, 
3 * 4 , 3 * 5 , 323-4, 329 


Dairying, 81, 1x6, 140, 141, 143, 144, 
160, 168, 169, 25^7 
Davidson, Olivia A., 106 
Dawson, William L., 322, 323 
Dearborn (Mich.), 312-14 
Dehydration of foods, 179, 240, 242, 
258, 3*8-17 

Des Moines (la.), 62, 67, 68 
Diamond Grove (Mo.), 3, 5, 30, 34, 
43 , * 93 , 333 

Dietetics, 127, 166, 172, 174, 175, 
187, 208, 224, 227, 237-42, 314, 
3 * 9 , 324-7 

Dime Ludicrous Speaker, The, 27 
Dining Hall (Tuskegee Institute), 
212-13, 233, 241 
Division of Agrostology, 136 
Division of Mycology and Disease 
Survey, 136, 319 

Douglass, Frederick, 115, 234, 332 
Dred Scott Decision, 26 
Dunbar, Paul Lawrence, 132, 171 
Duncan, Clara C., 53, 54 
Dutch East Indies, 316 
Dyes. See paints, pigments, stains, 1 79, 
:84, 208, 228, 236, 256, 258, 307, 
3 * 0 , 327 


Edison, Thomas A., 247, 297, 313, 3*4 
Efficiency Magazine (London), 287 
Einstein, Albert, 268 
Eliot, President Charles W. (Har» 
vard), 17* . 

Emancipation, i, 21, 100, 119, 12b, 
128, 129, 303 

Enquirer-Sun (Columbus, Ga.), 288 
Enterprise (Ala.), 225 
Entomolog>% 75, i 34 , * 5 ®, * 5 *, * 53 > 
^ 9 *» 205 . o 

Erosion. See soil conservation, 1 10-19, 
IQO. loe:^ toA 160. 172 


Farm Chemurgic, The, by Dr. William 
J. Hale, 31 1 

Farm Security Administration, 304, 

309 

Farmers’ Conferences, ii6, 164-8, 


180 

banners’ Institute, 160-4 
Fayetteville (Ark.), 42, 43 
Fertilizers. See soil improvement, 00, 
*47> *54“7» *8*> *82, 236, 310, 329 
ubers, 152, 227, 229, 230, 269, so*-*! 

3 **, 3 * 4 , 3 * 7 , 323, 327, 328 
?isk Universit)'. 104 



Index 


Florida, 211, 245, 247, 274, 291, 292, 
299, 316 

Flori-Horticultural Society, 93 
Ford, Henry, 312-14, 318, 325 
Fordney, Congressman Joseph W., 
2555 257, 258, 259 
Fordney-McCumber Tariff Bill, 255-9 
Fort McPherson (Atlanta, Ga.), 113 
Fort Scott (Kan.), 30, 32 
Fort Sumter, 252 
Foster, Colonel Wilbur F., 103 
Founder's Day (Tuskegee Institute), 

235, 324 

Freedmen’s Bureau, 25, 104 
Frost, Stephen S., 26, 27, 30 
Fungus diseases of plants. See mycol- 
og>*, 90, 134, 136, 151, 200-1, 

205, 239, 245, 320 

Gandhi, Mohandas, 245 
Garner, Congressman John N., 256-8 
General Education Board of the 
Rockefeller Foundation, 170, 300 
Geology, 52, 60, 75, 77, 159, 182-5, 
19 1, 205, 231-2, 293, 294, 310, 
320, 324 

George Washington Carver Founda- 
tion, 319, 330 

George Washington Carver Museum, 

324-9 

George Washington Carver Schools, 
the, 314, 331 

Georgia, 136, 148, 231, 299, 302 
Georgia School of Technology, 297 
Georgia State Health Department, 319 
Georgia Warm Springs Foundation, 
300 

German Empire, Colonial Secretary 
of, 158 

Germany, 236, 241, 317 
Gold Coast Colony, 17 1 
Golden Moments, by George W, 
Carv^er, 53 

Grant, Colonel, i, 3, 13 
Grasses, 92, 136, 138, 151 
Great Britain, 123, 124, 201, 267, 
287 

Greater Four County Fair (Suffolk, 
Va.), 260 

Greenville (S.C.), 288 
Gregg, Mr., 52 

Gross, President John Owen (Simp- 
son College), 289 
Guiney, Louise Imogen, 323 

Hale, Dr. William J., 31 1, 312 
Hampton Normal and Industrial In- 
stitute, 104-7, I JO, 1 16, 129, 144, 
165, 188, 294 
Hanover (Va.), 285 
Harding, President Warren G. See 
President Warren G. Harding 
Harris, Joel Chandler, 288 
Harris, Julia Collier, 288 
Rar/axd Uiiivcrsitj, ji, 97^ 1435^ 


339 

Heflin, Congressman J.Thomas, 252,254 

Herty, Dr. Charles H., 312 

Highland (la.), 44 

Highland University, 42-3 

Hillman, John L., 289 

Holmes, Rev. Edmund M., 62, 63, 64, 

67, 72 

Home ownership, 127-8, 165, 172, 
*73, *8i, 305, 309 
Horticultural Society of Iowa, 90 
Huston, Tom, 293-4 
Hutcheson, Dr, Miller Rees, 247 

/. A, C, Student, 98 
Illinois, 3, 315 
India, 187, 245 
Indiana, 23 i 

Indianola (la.), 62-72, 86 
Indigo, 184 

Individual Psychology, by Alfred Ad- 
ler, 128 

Industries of the South, 180, 225-30, 
23*-4> 244-5, 250-4, 259-61, 268- 
70, 274-5, 286, 290-3, 310-11,316, 
3*8-9, 327-8, 329 
Infantile paralysis, 298-300 
Iowa, 55, 93, 96, 1 1 7, 1 18, 184, 311, 
332 

Iowa Academy of Science, 90 
Iowa State College of Agriculture and 
Mechanic Arts, 71, 73-98, 140, 150, 
196, 221, 258, 275, 298, 304, 311, 

323 

Iowa State Register, 90, 184 
Ireland, 189 
Iron, 231, 310 
Italy, 331 

Japan, 245, 251 
Jeanes, Anna T., 170 
Jesup, Morris K., 120, i86 
jesup Wagon, i86 

John A. Andrew Memorial Hospital, 
276, 294, 324, 325 
Johns Hopkins Hospital, 264 
Johnson, Henry, 236 
Johnson, Dr. Ludie, 143 
Johnson, Samuel, 166 
Johnston, Sir Harry H., 248-g 
Joplin (Mo.), 25 

Journal of Agricultural Research, 200 
Journal oi the Washington Academy 
of Sciences, 200 

Kansas, 2, 30, 45, 55, 118, 262 
Kansas City, 42, 262 
Kaolin, 231 

Kappa Delta Pi Fraternity, 332 
Kentucky, 188 
Knoxville (Tenn.), 204 
Kress Collection of Fine Arts. 281 
Ku Klux Klan, 277 

Laboratory, 6, 146-7, 156, 182, 183, 
» 94 > 205. 217-21, 226, 228, 233, 
237, 243, 245, 251, 257, 259, 264, 
-05, 2/0, 29v/, 3 <jG- 7 . 309. 314. 313 . 




340 


Index 


Lace, 29, 35, 53, 59, igi, 192, 193, 

327^ 

Ladies^ Home Journal^ 243 
Lake Geneva (Wis.), 82—4 
Lamb Studios, 323 
Landis, Judge Kenesaw M., 235 
Landscaping, 153, 169, 235 
Lamed (Kan,), 49 
Laurel (Miss.), 315—16 
Lecturing, 93, 180, 188-90, 219, 262- 
5, 271-5, 284-5, 290-2, 313, 318 
Leguminosae, 156-7, 16 1, 223-7 
Liebig, Justus von, 80, 81 
Lincoln, General James Rush, 75-6, 
95 

Lions’ Club (Columbus, Ga.), 286 
Liston, Mrs. Arthur W., 64, 65, 74, 81, 

Literary Digest ^ 243 
■‘Live at home,” 116, 127, 135, 157-B, 
.165, 173-8, 222-3, 305, 316 
Liverpool (England), 123 
Locust Grove (Mo,), 20, 43 
Logan, Warren, iio, iii, 141 
Logan, ISIrs. Warren, 193, 196 
Louisiana, 4, 207, 315 
Luxembourg Galleries, 183 
Lynching, 32, 44, 189-90, 21 1 

Macedonia, 187 

Macon County (Ala.), 99, 100, 158, 
160, 163, 164, 166, 186, 209, 291 
Macon County Fair, 163-4, 233-4 
Macon Mail, 103 
Magnolia grandiflora, 205, 306 
Manchester Guardian, 267 
Manual of Poisonous Plants, by Dr. 

Louis H. Pammell, 90 
Manufacturers* Record, 245, 269 
Marble, 231 

Marble, synthetic. See plastics 
Marco Polo, 183 
Marianna (Fla.), 291 
Markham, Edwin, 133 
Mary, 1-4, 9 , ^93 
Mason, Mrs. Charles E., 276 
Massachusetts State Normal School, 
106 

McCollum, E. V., 239 
McKinley, President William. See 
President William McKinley 
Medicinal flora, 136, 137, 215-16, 

239, 240, 291, 292 
Meisch test, 159 
Mexico, 222, 296 
Mica, 231,327 

Milbank Building (Tuskegee Insti- 
tute), 219, 232, 238, 324 
Milbank Memorial Fund, 219 
Milholland, Dr., 57, 58, 65, 67, 68, 
81, 85-6, 89 

Milholland, Mrs., 57-flL 85, 67 > 

81, 85-6, 89 

Miller, Dr. Paul R., 319-20 
Minneapolis (Kan.), 37 " 4 *> *0° 
Mississippi, 136, 273-4, 299 . .302 


Mississippi State College for Women 

^,273-4 

Mississippi, University of, 273 
Missouri, i, 2, 3, 7, 20, 25, 118, 193 
333 

Mobile (Ala.), 123, 231 
Montgomery (Ala.), 102, no, 119 
131, 141, 164, 183, 184, 189, 192 
230, 231, 234, 251, 253, 254, 281 
Montgomery Advertiser, 293 
Moss, W. Wade, 245, 293 
Moton, Dr. Robert Russa, 294, 300-1 
321, 322 

Movable School, 1 86-7 
Munn, Cyclone, 50 
Mycolog>-, 88, 90, 91, 93, 98, 134 
138, 151, 200-1, 205, 214, 222 
227, 239, 245, 269, 279, 319 

Nashville (Tenn.), 189 
National jparm Chemurgic Councii 
3 J 2 , 313 

National Foundation for Infantil 
Paralysis, 300 
National Grange, 313 
Nature Study Chemistry for Bo 
Scouts, by George W. Carver, 19 
Nature Study Review, 199 
Negro Business League (Suffolk, Va.) 
260 

Negro in the New World, The, by Si 
Harry H. Johnston, 248-9 
Negro Scientist Shows ^^Way Out,** b 
Osburn Zuber, 293 
Neosho (Mo.), 14, 16, 20, 23, 25, 19 
Ness County (Kan.), 45-55> 74 
New England, 113, 122, 123, 129 
New Haven (Conn.), 234 
New Orleans (La.), 123 
New York (N.Y.), 250, 264, 268, 291 
331, 332 

New York Evening Post, 116 
New York Herald Tribune Forun 

331 

New York Times, 266-7, 269 
New York World, 115 
Newton County (Mo.), 2, 4 
North Carolina, 262, 302 
North Carolina, University of, 296 
Norwich (Conn.), 120 
Nyassaland, 295 

Ode to the Gourds, by George V 
Carver, 88-9 
Oklahoma, 302 
Olathe (Kan.), 36, 43 
“One-crop system,” 125-6, 132, 13 
157, 222, 225, 3^5 
Outline for the Study of Econom 
Plant Life of Use in Agricultur 
Classes, An, by George W. Carve 

152, 199 

Owens, T., 14 1 

Oxford (Miss.), 273 

Oxford. University of, 248, 249 



34* 


Index 


Paderewski, Ignace, 281 
P ain t. See pigments, dyes, stains, 182, 
183, 232-3, 260, 284, 307-9, 323, 

327 

Painting, 13-14, 53, 57, 61, 62-4, 65, 
69-72, 81-2, 86, 87-8, 89, 93, 98, 
166, 182-3, «9>, 193-4, 295, 328-9 
Paininell, Dr. Louis Hermann, 74, 90- 
ly 95 y 150 

Panama City (Fla.), 274, 291 
Pan-American Medical Congress, 136 
Paola (Kan.), 36 

Paper, 229-30, 237, 269, 313, 327 
Patterson, Dr, Frederick D., 305, 322, 

324 

Payne, Mrs., 31 
Peanut Promoter , The, 253 
Peanut World, The, 259, 260 
Peanuts, 156, 157, 223-9, 240-1, 245, 
250-60, 261, 264-5, 281, 284, 286, 
287, 291, 293, 295, 298, 300, 314, 
317, 318^19, 323, 327 
Pennsylvania, 315 
Penol Company, 286 
Perry, Commodore Matthew C., 157 
Peru, 80, 224 
Petroleum, 292, 310 
Philadelphia (Pa.), 170 
Philippine Islands, 189, 245 
Piedmont (Greenville, S.C.), 288 
Pigments. See paint, dyes, stains, 182, 
183-5,232,237,253,307 
Pioneers of Plenty, by Christy Borth, 
312 

Plant Disease Reporter, 319 
Plant diseases. See mycology 
Plastics, 229, 310, 313, 315 
Porter Hall (Tuskegee Institute), 108, 
121 

Powell, R. H., 286 
President Grover Cleveland, 115 
President C^vin Cpolidge, 73, 276 
President Warren G. Harding, 7^3, 

President William McKinley, 73, 168 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 73, 
S15 

President Theodore Roosevelt, 73, 
168-70, 207, 208, 234, 331 
President William H. Taft, 73, 171, 

235 

Professor Carver^ s Advice, 199 
Progressive and Correlative Nature 
Study, by George W. Carver, 91, 
203, 204 

Progressive Farmer, The, 331 
Puerto Rico, 189, 241 


Rarick, Chester, 42, 43 
Reli^ous folk songs, i, 43, 100, 161 
*63, 176^, 208, 322-3, 33 

Review of Reviews, 199 
Richmond (Va.), 284-5 
Wang Star School, 162, 170 
Robbins, Fred, 59-60 
Robbins, Mre. J. M., 59-^0 
Rochester, University of, 332 


Rock City (Kan.), 39 
Rockefeller Foundation, See General 
Education Board 

Rockefeller Hall (Tuskegee Institute), 
191, 197, 210, 324 
Rogers, Will, 188 

Roosevelt Medal for Distinguished 
Service, 331 

Roosevelt, President Franklin D. See 
President Franklin D. Roosevelt 
Roosevelt, President Theodore. See 
President Theodore Roosevelt 
Roosevelt, Quentin, 170 
Rosenwald, Julius, 170, 246 
Rotation of crops, 135, 160, 165, 173, 

187, 305 

Royal Society of Arts, 248, 262,. 

287 

Rubber, 241, 248, 269, 292, 309 
Russia, 245, 296 

St, Louis (Mo.), I, 28, 212 
Savannah (Ga. ), 123 
Schultz, Isabel, 294 
Schultz, Mr., 56, 58 
Scott, Emmet J., 1 15 
Se>Tnour, Christopher, 36-7, 81 
Se>Tnour, Lucy, 36-75 36 - 9 , 42, 81 
Sharp and Dohmc laboratories, 286 
Simpson College, 61-72, 86, 89, 196, 
288, 289, 332 

Slater- Armstrong Building (Tuskegee 
Institute), 120, 122, 137-9, J54i 
160, 164, 219 
Slater Foundation, 120 
Slater, John F., 120 
Slater, Mrs., 28 

Slavery, i, 3, 4, 13, loo-i, 1 13, 123- 
6, 128, 132, 173, 176, 217, 224, 246, 
„ 287, 305 
Smith, N. Clark, 171 
Smithsonian Institution, 136 
Soil analysis, 80-1, 147, 154, 159-62, 

329 

Soil conservation, 80-1, 105-6, 118- 
19, 122, 1*5, 133, »34, 135, 155, 
16^1, 172, 187, 305 
SoU improvement, 80-1, 155-7, >6i, 
*62, 173, 317, 329 
South America, 223, 248 
South Carolina, 136, 262, 302 
Southeastern Peanut Association, 274 
Southern Rhodesia, 187 
Southern States Exposition, 268-9 
Soybean, 157, 200, 223, 228, 257, 
312, 314, 319 
Spain, 224 

Spanish- American War, 168 
Spartanburg (N.C.), 263 
Spingam, Joel Elias, 262 
Spingam Medal, 262 

See religious folk songs 
Stains. See paints, dyes, pigments, 
228, 232, 233, 253, 258, 260, 323. 

327 

Stanton, Edgar W., 78 
Steagall, Congressman H. B., 254 



I ndex 


H2 

Jteelev, Mr., 45, 49, 51-2 
jteeley, Mrs., 45-8 
»toke 5 famih-, i 22 
>tokc5, AV. E. D., 142 

of My Life, The, by Sir Harr>' 
H. Johnston, 248 
iufTolk Va.), 260 
>utton, John, 296 

►weet potatoes, 13, 162, 179^0, 182, 
223, 2p, 240-4, 256, 257-8, 261, 
207, 207, 3 t 5 ~i 7 , 323, 327 

aft, President \ShIliam H. See Presi- 
dent \Villiani H. Taft 
"alladega College, 53, 104 
eachers College of Columbia Uni- 
versity, 199 
"ennessee, 299 
"ennessee River, 204 
ennessce Valley Authority, 304, 309 
ennyson, Alfred, Lord, 91 
>xa5, 3, 80, 136, 222, 302, 31 1, 318 
homas A. Edison Foundation, 332 
homas, Steffen W. G., 323 
'homas, W. C., 103 
hompson, Congressman Charles AV., 
- ^91 

hompson, Ernest AV., 260, 261, 267, 
283, 286 

'rades, teaching of, ro2, 104, 107-8, 
III, I 14, 115-16, 148, 168-9, 224 
Vipoli {'calcareous and siliceous), 231 
'ulsa (Okla. I, 291, 292 
"uskegee (Ala.), 94, 99, 10 1, 102, 
103, 104, 105, 119, 129, 134, rgo-i, 
205-6, 207, 260, 281, 286, 301, 318 
'uskegee Institute, 97, 104-17, 118- 


22, 

130- 

9, 140-2, 

145, 

148, 

153, 

154 

. 158 

, 165, 

CO 

cc 

-70, 

171, 

177 , 

182 

00 

1 

0 

c. 

CO 

f 

ID 

CO 

192, 

194 

. I Oh, 

U’ " . 

I 

204, 

205, 

CO"', 

2 I 2 

I 213, 

217, 

219, 

224, 

227, 

228, 

234 ^ 

1 235, 

236, 

237, 

241, 

243. 

246, 

247, 

248. 

251. 

2 / 1 , 

-To. 

— / J’ 

270- 

K) 

CO 

c 

28 J 

287, 

2S8, 

2S9. 

292. 

293- 

•4. 290. 299-300, 

303. 

304. 

305. 

300. 

307, 

311. 

314, 

315, 

321, 

323, 

324. 

332. 

334-5 






rnderwo-jd, Senator Oscar AA"'., 252, 

254 

.'nited Daughters of the Confederacy, 

... A 

'nited Peanut Associations of Amer- 
ica. 250-4 

'nited States Department of Agricul- 
ture, 71, 136, kS6, 200, 214, 220, 
223, 237. 291, 315. 320 
'nited States Government, 45, 138, 

186. 221, 232, 237, 254-5, 276, 

303-4. 315-16. 3^9 
Jnited States Pharmacopoeia, 291 

'ahrn^ine. President Alan (University 
(if Rochester), 332 
'arietv Clubs of America, 331 
'arncr. E. T.. & Co., 102 


Velvet bean, 157, 223, 228 
Veneers, 292-3 

Veterans’ Hospital (Tuskegee), 276-7 
Virginia, 136, 291 

V irginia-Carohna Co-operative Pea- 
^ nut Exchange, 255 
Visual education, 150-3, 154-6, 160- 
2, 168-9, 323-4 

AVallace, Rev. Henr\', 8i 
AVallace, Secretary Hcnr>- C., 73, 81, 

98 

AVallace, Vice-President Henr\’ A., 73, 

,92, 303-5, 315 

Wallace's Farmer, 81 
AVallboard, 229, 303, 327 
AV'ashington [D.C.), 136, 137, 189, 
202, 215, 220, 242, 250, 254, 261, 
2 7U2, 279, 304, 319 
AV'ashington Academy of Sciences, 200 
AV'ashington, Booker T., 94-5, 97-8, 
99, 100, 104-17, 122, 128, 129, 131. 

134, 136, 138-9, 142-3, 145, 147, 

^55, t59, 165-71, 177, 190, 191, 
^92, 198, 207, 208-10, 211, 212-13, 
2!5, 218-19, 224, 233-5, 246, 247, 
^275, 294, 321, 322, 334 
AV'ashington, Mrs. Booker T., 196 
AV'ashington, Davidson, 192 
AV'ashington, John, 137 
AV'ashington, John H., 116, 137, 143-5 
AVatkins, Andrew, 24, 26, 28 
AV^atkins, Mariah, 24-9, 81, 193 
AV'ays ( Ga. C 3 1 4 

AV'ays and Afeans Committee, 254-g, 

279 

AVeeds, 121, 194, 199, 208, 216, 224, 
238-40, 327 

AV'clch Eclectic Society, 76-7 
West I.ndies, 316 
AV'est Liberty Index, 93 
AVhitc, Horace, i 16 
Whitney, Eli, 123 
W’ickersham, Charles E., 276 
W'illiarns, Martha Jane, 7 
AA'iliuii, Secretary James G., 73, 74 
81-2, 85, 87, 9V3, 96-8, 137, 174 
189, 203, 220-1, 258 
AA'indsor (N.C.), 283 
AA'interset (la.) 56-61, 67 ^ 

AAMmen’s Board of Domestic Missions 
of the Reformed Church in Amer- 
ica, 264 

AAMrld AVar I, 236, 237, 241, 243, 277, 
291. 310, 316 
AAMrld AA'ar II, 316 
AAMrId’s Columbian Exposition (Chi- 
cago, III.), 88 

AA'orld’s Peanut Exposition, 283-4 
AA'right, Captain AV. H., 99, 109 

V'ale University, 123 
Y.M.C.A., 57 , 67, 82. 83, 84 93. 
262-3. 273 

Yucca, 87-8, lOS, 1 19, 205, 230, 303 

Zion Hill, 105 
Zuber, Osburn, 293